Arken Museum of Modern Art
Arken Museum of Modern Art
Ishøj, Denmark

Søren Robert Lund won the Arken Museum commission through a national competition in 1988; the museum opened March 1996. This eight year evolution of the museum's design has had a critical effect on the final building as it reveals itself today. The design of the museum can be divided into a number of different realms including the overall layout, the spatial experience, and ultimately, the details. Arken at sunset Central to the design was the desire to create an interaction between the building and the coastal landscape of beaches, harbors, and lakes. This interaction is stimulated by using the scale and character of the landscape as a starting point, and culminates in a sculptural, horizontal building with different structural elements that stretch out and visually conquer the surrounding landscape.

The metaphor of a shipwreck was very significant in relating the design to the character and history of the landscape. It is a creative, story telling element in the public experience of the building. The overall character of the museum is expressed through proportion, shape, light, and acoustics, and the connection or contrast between different spaces. The museum is centered on a long, curved axis; the surrounding landscape is embraced by extending three additional, staggered axes. The entrance is placed on the west side of the building, at which point visitors have two choices; either to move from the Outer Foyer into to the Art axis or the Main Foyer. This creates a contrast between the intimacy of the narrow entrance and the vast expanse of the surrounding landscape-the metaphor being a porch of a medieval church.

The Outer Foyer is situated between two curved walls; one from the Art axis and the other from the Main Foyer. Like a spine with its ribs out stretched, the main steel construction penetrates the room. The viewer senses the structural lines crossing between these two walls. Beneath the Outer Foyer, the contrast is between the cave like coat checkroom with ruby red painted walls and black floor and the white terrazzo coved restroom, where a two ton terrazzo sink is the visual center. The Main Foyer is defined not so much by space as it is by the elements that intersect and inhabit it including a domed skylight, an arched outer wall (like a medieval perimeter wall), and the intersection of a steel footbridge that connects the balcony in the Main Axis to the restaurant on the second floor. A 36 ton Norwegian granite block marks the foyer entrance. Off the Main Foyer are the cinema and theater; their shape, technical design, and colors underline the cave like character of both rooms, creating a dramatic contrast to the naturally lit galleries.

The Main Gallery is the 150 meter long Art axis. It is the unifying gallery in the museum; one wall arches in a crescent, the other remains straight. Its width varies from 10 meters in the central section, corresponding to a height of 12 meters, and falls to an ellipse of 3.5 meters at each end. The space acts as the 'nave' of a 'cathedral.' From the Art axis, one has direct access to the galleries. To the south, the lower level contains a gallery for graphic art. The galleries to the north are defined by two skylights that underline the modular character of the spaces. Both skylights are designed to the proportion of 1:3 (height:width). This module is reflected throughout the rest of the building, from the steel work to the two bay windows situated beside each skylight. The interaction between the interior spaces and views out to the landscape through the bay windows articulates of one of the main design ideas.

The Red axis bisects the building, stretching from the Main Foyer to the boat bridge at the harbor. Seen as a structural element, it is one of the most important segments of the building, creating a visual connection between the interior and exterior. The tilting walls, ruby red colors, and black floor emphasize the intimate character of the space. The restaurant on the second floor is the climax of the journey through the building, with an almost theatrical interplay between the structural elements and the dramatic view to the sea. The restaurant's main structure resembles the Outer Foyer, with the steel gutter as a spine and steel beams stretching out like ribs.

Materials and details were driven by the building's layout and a metaphorical connection to the character of the coastal location. The poetic roughness of the Ishøj landscape is reflected in the texture of the museum. The primary building materials are concrete cast in situ and steel. These are carried through to the interior with white concrete floors and steel beams and doors. The joints of the beams and doors are visible, along with coupling bolts inspired by 19th century cast iron designs.


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