Oslo National Art Museum
Land and Sea, Light and Sky The new National Museum in Oslo, Norway draws inspiration from two primary sources: the Fjordscape, where the land meets the sea and the sky with great drama; and the Northern daylight, at once diffuse and subdued but at times ever present in the sky. These strong sources, one of landscape and earth and the other of light and sky, are abundant and wholly unique to Norway’s geological and seasonal conditions. They embody an immovable constant that has deep roots in the cultural DNA, but also one that is dynamic and ever changing. As a new place of public gathering, contemplation, and learning, this project examines these two inspirational sources in greater depth to form and manifest a new architectural intervention: a great public space with art in the heart of Oslo, one that is befitting of the title ‘National Museum’. Two Stones in the Sun Despite the complexity of the museum program, the new National Museum is seen as a complete and singular entity. Guided by the desire to bring direct sunlight into the heart of the building at all times of the year, one formal cut is made to the stone in the east/west axis. This results in a dramatic vertical space filled with sunlight in the summer months and washed with low angle sunlight in the winter months. The cut becomes the central organizing element, informing program distribution, circulation strategies, daylight distribution, and most importantly the overall sensory experience for both visitor and museum staff. The space formed by the two stones defines a new ‘vertical’ public space for the city of Oslo, one animated by specific sun angles and the viewing of fine art and precious national treasures. Larvikite Conceived as stone, the new National Museum is built of stones. Larvikite, commonly known in the building industry as ‘Blue Pearl’ granite and ‘Emerald Pearl’ granite, is a true local stone. This igneous stone is endowed with subtle characteristics when seen at different scales and under varying light conditions. The building exterior aims to take full advantage of both the strong monolithic character of the stone and the fine, gem-like details of the stone revealed under direct sunlight. Cut and shaped into masonry unit scale, the stone will be stacked in regular coursing to reinforce the layering and accentuate the overall vertical depth of the spaces within. Finishes, ranging from rough cut and flamed finish, to highly polished, glass-like surfaces will be used to bring out various textural qualities of the stone in different situations. The stone is sensual, reacting to both the sunlight and to one’s touch – sometimes cool and at times warm – changing constantly with the movement of the light. Architecture A Journey Stemming from the two sources that have inspired the design concept, the proposal for the new National Museum considers the interplay between natural lighting and the viewing of art and artifacts. Several different light qualities are explored, impacting the building’s envelope, fenestration, structure, roofscape and all key interior spaces. Using the east / west cut as a means of collecting and dispersing the daylight throughout the interior of the building, the visitor’s experience is orchestrated to take full advantage of optimum day lighting conditions. The sequence begins at the entry space which is low and compressed, leading the visitor towards the brightly lit south wall of the northern volume. Walking towards the wall, the visitor will have the view of the 40 meter high void space that is shaped by sun angles specific to the seasonal angle of incidence. Stairs are carved into the north wall, giving the visitor a dramatic experience of walking up in the angled wall to the gallery levels above. Adjacent to the stair landings, glass bridges allow visitors to cross over to the galleries in the southern volume. The journey of climbing the stone wall ends with unobstructed views of Oslo’s distant fjords. Art & Light The distribution of gallery spaces are based on the sectional diagram of the building and the simple principal that opportunities for greater daylight levels occur at the top level and decrease incrementally towards the bottom level. Therefore the stacking of the galleries occur in sequence accordingly with the daylight levels: Old Art Gallery on level 2 for restricted daylight, Design & Craft Gallery on level 3 for restricted and controlled daylight, and Contemporary Art Gallery on level 4 for tunable day lighting. The exception is the Temporary Art Gallery which is distributed among 3 levels – entry level, level 2, and level 4 – taking full advantage of various day lighting opportunities throughout the building. Contemporary and Temporary Art will benefit from moments where direct sunlight is incorporated into the exhibit or diffused as required. For all gallery levels, opportunities to enhance the visitor’s experience with light filled common areas are explored. This provides needed relief for the visitor and to offer key views and moments of connection back out to the urban context. All gallery levels feature natural light and panoramic views. The balance of focused galleries to open, day lit areas is a key ingredient for contemplation, respite, and orientation. Environmental Targets From the initial inspirational sources, there is a great desire to construct this new National Museum using local, indigenous materials. Simply put, this is a building about Norway built with Norwegian materials. Minimizing or eliminating altogether the need to import foreign building materials becomes a positive environmental goal and strategy. The design concept has taken into account that all aesthetic ambitions of the project can be met using a limited palette of indigenous materials ranging from stone and glass to select timber.


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