Official nod for new National Museum

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Oslo got its long-awaited Opera House, and now the state Ministry of Culture finally has settled on a proposal for a new National Museum for the capital. It will combine several existing museums around town and be built just behind the Nobel Peace Center and Aker Brygge at Oslo’s inner harbour.

The new proposed National Museum will have wood siding and rise behind the Nobel Peace Center, which sits on the City Hall Plaza at Oslo's inner harbour. The Aker Brygge commercial and residential complex is seen at left. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: Statsbygg/Architect DiizGroup

The government minister in charge of cultural affairs, Anniken Huitfeldt of the Labour Party, announced Monday that the winning bid is from Kleihues + Schuwerk Gesellschaft von Architeten mbH, with offices in Berlin and Naples. Its “forum artis” project beat out competing projects from JAJA Architects Aps and Henning Larsen Architects A/S, both of Copenhagen.

Kleihues + Schuwerk was also the top choice of a jury appointed by the state to evaluate various proposals. Since April, all three finalists have been negotiating with the state agency responsible for major public construction projects, Statsbygg.

The offer by Kleihues + Schuwerk was “judged to be the best and most financially viable,” combining “nice, distinct visitor areas with functional solutions that preserve and secure the National Museum’s collections.”

The project will combine all divisions of the National Museum — the National Gallery, the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design (Kunstindustrimuseet), the Museum of Contemporary Art (Museet for Samtidskunst), and the National Museum of Architecture — in one location. Huitfeldt called the proposed new building “the best arena for our greatest artists.”

National Museum director Audun Eckhoff denied the new museum was "too minimalistic," claiming it would not dominate the area and may offer rooftop terraces. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: Statsbygg/Architect DiizGroup

Architect Klaus Schuwerk was in Oslo for the announcement of his winning project, which museum director Audun Eckhoff called “flexible yet solid, sophisticated and not very dominating.” Eckhoff claimed his staff at the National Museum fully supported the project and that it wouldn’t detract from Nobel Peace Center in its historic building that once served as the train station called Vestbanen.

The huge project and its location remain controversial, with some Norwegians urging that the National Gallery, for example, should remain in its historic quarters downtown with a new building erected on its adjacent property which long was used as a parking lot. Debate has also raged over that site for decades.

So it’s all still subject to approval by the full Norwegian Parliament, which is due to debate its merits and financial framework during the 2012-2013 session. The Center Party remains opposed, and costs are expected to soar into the billions. If all goes as Eckhoff hopes, though, construction will begin in 2014 and the various components of the National Museum can move in during 2017.

(For a multi-dimensional look at the proposed building, click here. External link, in Norwegian, starting with the Minister of Culture’s remarks and those of the National Museum’s director.)

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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