If there’s too much art, Snøhetta will add more space

Lillehammer Art Museum by Snøhetta. Photos Mark Syke

LILLEHAMMER – A museum in a small Norwegian town keeps outgrowing its home. For the second time in its 52-year existence, Snøhetta has stepped in to extend the Lillehammer Art Museum, providing additional exhibition space and renovating the old theatre hall. The original museum building, which included the on-site cinema, was built in 1964 by Erling Viksjø.

‘Static’ and ‘strict’ are the two words that come to mind when describing the Kino but, then, it was the 1960s and the brutalist concrete structure is representative of its time. To coincide with the 1994 Winter Olympics, Snøhetta completed the first extension to the museum with a concrete structure that followed the blunt style of the original building but added a softening curved façade.

Now, a further extension – which includes a dedicated gallery for local painter Jakob Weidemann – has opened, again designed by Snøhetta after a successful competition bid and, again, intended to complement the existing architecture. However, on this occasion, the functional addition seems subtle and subdued in comparison to the shiny silver box that steals the limelight. The stainless steel façade is the result of a collaboration with Norwegian sculptor Bård Breivik and encloses the Weidemann Room.

Considered to be one of Norway’s most important post-war artists, Weidemann’s work is full of bright colours, representations of light and expressive marks, often thickly layered with a palette knife; themes that are mirrored in Breivik’s deep folds and rippling surfaces. The sculptural façade becomes a place to house art inside of art, which Snøhetta architect Julie Aars describes as ‘a unique element that gives an abstract reflection of the surroundings and changes along with the daylight’.

As time has passed, the theme of ‘linkage’ has become an important consideration for the museum’s architecture. In 1994, Breivik designed the sculptural art garden that connected the two individual volumes. The recent extension has, again, considered the need to allow the museum to function as one project. ‘The fact that there are now three separate buildings is part of the historic setting – a building process over time – with three volumes each expressing themselves without dominating the others,’ comments Aars.

‘The involvement of the previous buildings was part of the consideration when the shape of the third element was being designed; three separate volumes with different appearances and different textures but equal value.’ With a permanent collection comprising Norwegian art from the 1880s to the present day, hopefully Lillehammer Art Museum is big enough, for now.

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