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New Oslo Museum to House City’s Munch Collection

Exterior rendering of the new Munch Museum, at right, will be located across from the Oslo Opera House along the Oslofjord, in Oslo, Norway
The new Munch Museum, at right, will be located across from the Oslo Opera House along the Oslofjord, in Oslo, Norway. © AFL

A new museum dedicated to the artist Edvard Munch will be constructed along the Oslofjord, in Oslo, Norway, as part of a larger effort to revitalize a former industrial neighborhood.

August 13, 2013—Norway’s most famous artist, Edvard Munch, was known for using color to express complex emotions surrounding psychological themes. Such renowned paintings as “The Scream” feature layers of color that swirl together to convey the overarching message of each piece. So it is perhaps fitting that a new museum dedicated to Munch and his work will rely to some extent on colorful reflections to draw people into the world of the legendary artist.

The new Munch Museum (Munch Museet) will be located in the Bjovika neighborhood, in Oslo, Norway. Once a bustling container port along the Oslofjord, the neighborhood is being transformed into the city’s premiere cultural district, and is already the site of the iconic Oslo Opera House, home to the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet. The Oslo government held an international design competition in 2009 for the new museum, to be located just 200 m from the opera house. Herreros Arquitectos, an architecture firm based in Madrid, Spain, won the competition with its design entitled “Lambda,” but political divisiveness stalled the project. Finally, Oslo’s city council officially approved the project in June.

“Oslo—like Barcelona, New York, and several other cities—has renewed its links with the sea following the demolition of the mass of industrial buildings [near the shore],” said Juan Herreros, Ph.D., the principal of Herreros Arquitectos, who is also a chair professor and the director of the thesis program at the Madrid School of Architecture and a professor in practice at Columbia University in New York City, in response to written questions posed by Civil Engineering online. The Oslo revitalization project “is the largest urban planning project in Norway and will give the city a brand new image, especially for those inhabitants who approach it by sea,” he said. 

  Cross-section rendering of the museum's lobby, which will be topped by three 'floating boxes' that will accommodate public spaces 

 The museum lobby will be topped by three “floating boxes” that will
accommodate public spaces for educational, recreational, cultural,
and social events. © Herreros

One of the most important components of the regeneration project, the new museum will replace the existing Munch Museum, which is located on another site in Oslo. Before he died there in 1940, Munch bequeathed a significant portion of his work to the city, which then opened the museum to display the collection of 28,000 works of art, including approximately 1,150 paintings, 17,800 prints, 7,700 drawings, 20 sculptures, and several photos taken by the artist. It is the largest single collection of Munch works in the world. “During his lifetime, [Munch] did not sell much of his work, and so the legacy is enormously rich and varied,” Herreros explained. Since opening in 1963, the existing museum has become outdated, lacking sufficient security and program space.

More than just a place to exhibit Munch’s artwork, the new 24,200 m2 museum will have 12 floors of varying heights, all above grade. The base of the museum will house a sprawling column-free entrance hall at ground level, topped by a series of “floating boxes” that will accommodate public spaces—away from the primary exhibit spaces—for educational, recreational, cultural, and social events. The museum proper will rise from the base, taking the shape of a tower with a tilted top. Each of the floors throughout the tower will have two rooms—one large and one smaller—for different types of exhibits, while the top floor will house a restaurant. The primary circulation path through the building will be located near the front facade, isolated from the exhibit areas to afford a seamless transition from one floor to the next. An elevator will lead from the lobby directly to the restaurant.

Although the museum’s structural design has not been finalized, the building will likely be founded on either bored steel piles or concrete diaphragm walls, depending on seismic analysis results and the preferred construction method, said Jens Richter, an architect and associate of Herreros Arquitectos and the firm’s principal director on the Munch Museum project, in written responses to Civil Engineering online. The museum will be framed in a combination of concrete and steel, the most complex elements likely situated in the tilt at the top of the building and the floating boxes at the base. Cantilevered steel beams supported by reinforced-concrete gable-and-core walls will create the tilted effect at the top of the building, while at the base the floating boxes will appear to levitate thanks to large floor-to-ceiling trusses embedded within their walls. These trusses will extend between the entrance hall’s exterior and interior facade columns, allowing for a column-free space below. “This main public entrance space on the ground floor unfolds below these floating boxes, freed up from any additional structural element,” Herreros explained.

 Exterior rendering of the museum will house a restaurant in its tilted top

 The museum’s tilted top will house a restaurant with views of the
adjacent Oslo Opera House and beyond. © MIR

Similar to the way Munch used color to reflect feelings and offer insight into the human psyche, the architects were inspired to create a museum facade that catches the eye by reflecting the changing colors of the sky while also offering views into and out of the museum at every level. To that end, the museum will be clad in a combination of glass and corrugated metal panels that will mirror the colors of the sky during the day and allow the interior light to shine out like a beacon on the shoreline at night. “The Oslo sky, with its constant subtle changes, provided the inspiration,” Herreros said. “From the start, we considered that the building should reflect this phenomenon in a sensitive manner. As a result, the look is that of a massive translucent object [that reveals] the people’s movements inside and responds to the changing stimuli of the light.”

In addition to accentuating the building’s aesthetics, the corrugated metal facade panels will filter sunlight into the building’s interior. The panels will be perforated as much as 60 percent in some cases and as little as 20 percent in others to control the amount of sunlight that penetrates the structure. “On the west facade, this exterior sun-shading device is arranged in such a way that light intensity is gradually reduced towards the [entrances to] the exhibition spaces, making the transition from a daylight-filled space into the artificially lit exhibition spaces naturally comfortable, while all the pieces of art remain protected from daylight,” Richter wrote. The metal panels will reduce solar gain and are just one of the museum’s sustainable design elements. Others include photovoltaic panels for electricity production. “The environmental ambition is …to comply with energy requirements on the level of a passive house with half of the greenhouse gas emissions—compared to a conventional building—caused by building and operational processes,” Richter said.

The project is in the “Forprosjekt” phase, which, the architects said, is similar to the design development phase, and is slated for completion in 2018. It is the ambition of the architects that when the project is completed it will be a welcome addition to the city. “We hope that the museum will be received as the physical culmination of a collective dream, something that the citizens of Oslo will see as their own, as if it had always been part of the landscape,” Herreros said.



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