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Munch Modern

Paying homage to Norwegian painter Edvard Munch, the new Munch Museum is a beacon to Oslo’s burgeoning Bjørvika neighborhood.

By Rachel Gallaher

Exterior shot of the new Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway, designed by Estudio Herreros. Image by Tove Lauluten.

Originally set to open this fall along the Akerselva River in Oslo, Norway, the new Munch Museum, which houses nearly 28,000 works by 19th-century painter Edvard Munch, known best for his haunting existential painting, The Scream of Nature, will now open its doors in the spring of 2021. Designed by the Madrid office of architecture firm Estudio Herreros, the building has an elegantly bowed top (inspired by the geometry of water) that leans towards the city center, while its façades are wrapped in an undulated skin made of perforated recycled aluminum.

“The New Munch Museum is created for the Bjørvika neighborhood in Oslo, with its notable height and shape next to the fjord,” write Juan Herreros and Jens Richter, partners at Estudio Herreros, in an email. “Aiming for contrast with the horizontal orientation of the [nearby] Opera building without competing with Oslo’s most recognized contemporary piece of architecture, the museum’s volume bows respectfully towards the Opera, the newly created public spaces towards the west and the historical center of the city.”

The museum boasts sweeping views of both the Akerselva River and the surrounding city. Image by Ivar Kvaal.

Surrounded on three sides by water, the museum holds 11 galleries offering a range of ways for visitors to learn about Munch’s art and life, as well as works by other modernist and contemporary artists in dialogue with Munch. “During his lifetime and beyond, the artist Edvard Munch has been considered a rebel and outcast for his avant-garde thinking and groundbreaking practice, always pushing the boundaries of well-established perceptions and common tastes,” note Herreros and Richter. “The new Munch Museum wants to transform this spirit into a building that is at the forefront of the latest development in sustainable construction with an ambitious novel programming expanding the definition of the contemporary museum as a social condenser. The new Munch is not just a facility for the safeguarding and dissemination of a fundamental piece of heritage of the history of Norwegian culture.”

The architects designed the museum with the surrounding environment, including the nearby Oslo Opera House, which it bows towards, in mind. Image by Ivar Kvaal.

The façade appears in a striated pattern of shades of gray, and top of the building (the part that bends or slumps riverward) is encased with panes of glass that allow for sweeping city views, connecting the interiors to the surrounding environment. According to Herreros and Richter, “the facades, finished in perforated recycled aluminum with different degrees of transparency, offer an enigmatic and evanescent perception of the building that reacts to the mild stimuli of the Oslo climate, offering very different appearance of the building depending on the moment.”

In addition, the structure was built with eco-friendly principles in mind. Constructed from materials—including low-carbon concrete and recycled steel— with a technical lifecycle of 200 years on the load-bearing structure, the museum has reduced climate gas emissions, one of the main foundations that has transformed the building into a “passive” space.

“The new Munch Museum proposes to present art within a broader set of public spaces and experiences,” the architects explain. “The podium assumes the urban role of the building as a condenser of social encounters.”


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