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Saturday, April 20, 2024

One Chinese exhibit in Norway

MUSEUM GUIDE: Norway’s capital is full of museums, and they’re often in the news. We’re following that news, and aim to focus regularly on a specific museum or attraction worthy of a visit.
THIS WEEK: The National Museum – Architecture, which has been hosting an exhibit on Chinese architecture at a time when relations between Norway and China are strained.

The National Museum Architecture, designed by architect Christian Heinrich Grosch. PHOTO: Isabel Coderre

It may be small, but the National Museum – Architecture opens visitors’ eyes to much bigger things … literally. Its most recent temporary exhibit, M8 in China, has been exploring Chinese architecture by profiling the work of eight young Chinese architecture firms. China’s cities lay claim to some of the tallest buildings in the world, with 16 skyscrapers throughout the country towering at a height of 300 metres or more, and 41 skyscrapers of equal or greater proportion being under construction. For comparative purposes, the tallest building in Norway is Oslo’s Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel, which stands at a height of 117 metres. (Interestingly, from the top of the Oslo Opera House, the Aftenposten building appears taller, but it is actually 111 metres tall.)

The projects conducted by these firms are not all gravity-defying skyscrapers, though. One of the most interesting projects highlighted in the exhibition was the “Rebirth-Brick Plan” by Jiakun Architects, which is a proposal for rebuilding the areas of the Chinese province of Sichuan that were ravaged by the May 2008 earthquake.

According to the co-curator of the exhibition, who is also the director of the German Architectural Museum in Frankfurt, Chinese architecture is “the most dynamic in the world today.” China achieved this status in relatively little time, as private architectural firms were not permitted in China until 1994 in favour of state-run enterprises. This newfound creative freedom allowed architectural voices to emerge in China, and go on to draw global attention at international competitions.

The one-room exhibition, "M8 in China". PHOTO: Isabel Coderre

The fact that the exhibition has even been taking place in Norway is significant, given the lack of cooperation and the tension felt between Norway and China ever since the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo late last year. Since that time, discussions concerning Norway’s momentous free trade deal with China have been postponed, and Norwegian certification company Det Norske Veritas had its license to conduct operations in China revoked, among other demonstrations of Chinese officials’ anger. Recently, an upcoming international trade fair being held in Oslo (called Nor-Shipping) saw Chinese state-owned shipping companies forego their exhibition space and cancel their attendance. Private shipping companies are still expected to participate, which might explain why M8 in China is still being shown, since the architecture firms being profiled are private.

After touring the exhibition, set to close on Sunday, don’t miss the restaurant-café at the museum which is popular in its own right. The café is named Grosch after the architect who designed the museum building, Christian Heinrich Grosch.

National Museum – Architecture (external link)
Open: Closed Mondays. Open Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday 11am-5pm, Thursday 11am-7pm, Saturday and Sunday noon-5pm.
Location: Bankplassen 3, behind Akershus Fortress in Oslo’s Kvadraturen district. Take the trikk to Kongens gate, the bus to Bankplassen, or the T-bane to Stortinget. Or, enjoy a five-minute walk from Jernbanetorget.
Admission: Free.


Historical Museum (Historisk museum)
The Norwegian Museum of Science, Technology, Industry and Medicine (Norsk Teknisk Museum)
Ski Museum at Holmenkollen
Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities (HL-senteret)
Nobel Peace Center
Oslo Jewish Museum (Jødisk Museum i Oslo)
Oslo City Museum (Bymuseet)
The Museum of Contemporary Art
The Ibsen Museum
The Museum of Decorative Arts and Design (Kunstindustrimuseet)
The National Gallery
Norsk Folkemuseum (The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History)
The Viking Ship Museum
Summertime at The Munch Museum
The Natural History Museum – Botanical Gardens
The National Museum – Architecture
The Kon-Tiki Museum
The Maritime Museum
Oscarsborg Fortress
The Polar Ship Fram Museum
“Be a tourist in your own town”

Views and News from Norway/Isabel Coderre
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