Pb. 7014 St. Olavs Square, Oslo
closed: Easter Monday and Sunday Type of museum: Architecture / Urban planning, Art, Industrial design
the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design (Norwegian: Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design) in Oslo is Norway’s largest and most important museum; the museum is housed in an imposing stone-clad building, designed by German architects Kleihues + Schuwerk, inaugurated on June 11, 2022.
Cover image: The National Museum of Oslo; Frode Larsen photo courtesy of Nasjonalmuseet.
The National Museum was founded in 1837 as Central Norwegian State Museum of Fine Arts then renamed national gallery; in 2003, the institution merged with the museum of architecture, the museum of decorative arts and design and the museum of contemporary art to form the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design (often abbreviated as National Museum/Nasjonalmuseet). Following the merger, the Norwegian government decided to create a new, larger home for the institution and held an international architectural competition in 2010 which was won by Germany Kleihues + Schuwerk. After a two-year delay, the new museum building finally opened on June 11, 2022.
An aerial view of the National Museum complex with historic Oslo West Station in the foreground and Pipervika Fjord on the left; photo Iwan Baan.
Site map, image courtesy of Kleihues + Kleihues.
The new museum building
The new headquarters of the National Museum is located on the site of the former West Station (Vestbanestasjon) overlooking the Pipervika fjord in downtown Oslo; with a gross area of 54,600 square meters / 587,700 square feet, the museum is the largest in the Nordic countries and one of the largest in Europe.
With 13,000 square meters / 140,000 square feet of gallery space, the National Museum building contains a restaurant, museum shop, auditorium, multi-purpose hall, library, laboratories, studios, workshops, offices, archive rooms and storage rooms.
The building designed by Klaus Schuwerk is a massive structure clad primarily in gray Norwegian shale and topped with a translucent volume, known as “Light Hall”, which houses a 2,400 square meter / 25,800 square foot temporary exhibition space; the translucent facade of the Light Hall is made of “marbled glass”, a material consisting of a thin layer of marble between two layers of transparent glass.
The new construction integrates with the two existing buildings of the century, including the Gare de l’Ouest designed by the architect Georg Andreas Taurus in 1872, by an entrance courtyard.
The ground floor houses the foyer, the exhibition rooms, the café, the auditorium and the library whose reading room is lit by a water mirror. The second floor contains a sculpture atrium, galleries and a terrace with a roof garden, while the Light Hall dominates the third floor.
The museum’s $660 million building received mixed reviews, while some hailed it as a streamlined and sustainable exhibit machine, others found it overpriced and visually lackluster.
View of the southeast side of the museum from Brynjulf Bulls plass; photo Iwan Baan.
3D model and plan of the second floor; images courtesy of Kleihues + Kleihues.
The entrance courtyard; photo Iwan Baan.
Aerial view, the translucent box that crowns the museum contains the “Light Hall” exhibition space; photo Iwan Baan.
The collection of the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design is quite diverse and consists of around 47,000 pieces, 5,000 of which are exhibited in the galleries of the museum, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, videos, decorative arts, clothing, textiles and furniture, dating from prehistory to the present day.
However, the centerpiece of the National Museum is undoubtedly its large collection of Norwegian and international painting, and in particular the room dedicated to the famous Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. The museum indeed holds what is arguably the world’s largest body of work by Munch, comprising some 235 pieces including one of four extant versions of his famous painting.The Scream”. Also very interesting is the collection of landscape paintings by a 19th century artist. Johan Christian Dahl. The collection also includes notable works by Albrecht Dürer, Édouard Manet, Francisco Goya, Pablo Picasso and Amedeo Modigliani, among others.
The National Museum’s program of events and activities includes special exhibitions, guided tours, film screenings and educational workshops.
Edvard Munch, “The Scream”, 1893, oil on canvas; photo Nasjonalmuseet / Børre Hostland.
Johan Christian Dahl, Storm Clouds, 1835, oil on canvas; picture Nasjonalmuseet.
Sol LeWitt, Wall Drawing #839, on display in the second-floor Sculpture Room; photo Nasjonalmuseet.
The library; photo Ina Wesenberg.
An interior view of the temporary exhibition space “Ligh Hall”; the lobby’s translucent skin is a thin layer of marble encapsulated in two layers of clear glass; photo Iwan Baan.
Photo National Museum/Annar Bjørgli.