Gallery: Steven Holl’s Knut Hamsun Museum Stands Tall in the Norwegian ...


Like any good architect, Steven Holl finds inspiration in unexpected places. His award-winning Swiss residence was inspired by the black rocks and white snow of the Swiss Alps. And this project, a museum in Hamarøy, Norway, is inspired by the writing of Knut Hamsun, Norway’s most inventive 20th century writer. While the structure at first glance seems a bit austere, its design concept, described as “building as body,” is rich and poetic, serving as a narrative that “tells many contrasting tales and constantly revitalizes Hamsun’s writing.” The museum will include exhibition areas, a library, cafe and auditorium, topped off by a roof garden whose long grass reflects traditional Norwegian sod roof design.

Structurally, the building consists of a tarred black wood facade, characteristic of the region’s Norse churches. This dark skin is punctuated by “hidden impulses” that provide visual interest into the interior. In stark contrast, the interior’s white-painted concrete interiors engage visitors by reflecting rays of light whose intensity changes throughout the year. “These strange, surprising, and phenomenal experiences in space, perspective, and light provide an inspiring frame for exhibitions… The building is conceived as an archetypal and intensified compression of spirit in space and light, concretizing a Hamsun character in architectonic terms”, says Holl.

Originally commissioned in 1994, the building opened to commemmorate Hamsun’s 150th birthday in August of 2009.

+ Steven Holl Architects


or your inhabitat account below


  1. Andreas July 12, 2007 at 8:20 am

    Dear Ann. Knut Hamsun symphasised National Socialist views in the early 1930s -just like millions of other naive people all over Europe at that time. Anyone who made the effort to sit down and read one of Knut Hamsuns books will understand that he is not a fascist –literally. Naive? perhaps! Traditionalist? yes! PS: Have you read any of his books?

  2. lindaloo March 19, 2007 at 10:00 pm

    This building looks like a smurf. It makes me laugh out loud.

  3. jessie March 15, 2007 at 3:57 pm

    I like it. I think it is entertaining, interesting and has a spirit about it that i think a lot of architecture is lacking.

  4. dug March 13, 2007 at 11:56 am

    to each their own. i think it’s beautiful.

  5. asieger March 11, 2007 at 10:11 pm

    well, even if it looks ugly from here, holl’s buildings tend to be low on exterior beauty and high on incredibly experiential spaces- i’d trust his track record over some pour renderings.

  6. Greg pOLOYNIS March 9, 2007 at 7:58 pm

    The exterior aesthetic makes me want to dance around it like a chimp, throwing bones in the air. But then again, what doesn’t make me want to do that… . . . . ?

  7. jean harrington March 9, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    I like it.
    Norse stave churches are black or brown.
    And, it’s accessible,
    something I care about.

  8. Ann Garrison March 9, 2007 at 6:36 am

    P.S. Knut Hamsun was a fascist–literally. Sided with the Nazis when they invaded Norway if I remember correctly. Glad to be corrected if I’m wrong about this, but I think he did. —A.

  9. Ann Garrison March 9, 2007 at 6:33 am

    Isn’t this thing a bit short on light?

  10. Balsain March 9, 2007 at 5:54 am

    wow, that building is really ugly!

  11. givemeabreak March 9, 2007 at 1:23 am

    Having a ‘design concept’ does not make a building beautiful. It looks like a blight upon the land.

get the free Inhabitat newsletter

Submit this form
popular today
all time
most commented
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
Federated Media Publishing - Home