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.