The Viking Ship Museum, through the fortuitous mishap of past urban ambitions to connect the peninsula by bridge, remains strongly ‘connected’ to the waters of the Oslofjord. Together with Norsk Folkemuseum, the two form a unique oasis on Bygdøy, a critical mass of culture in a lush suburban environment. The story of the new museum begins with framing this condition, the building as its own object in the collection.
Elegantly gracing this generous site atop of Huk Aveny the quietly powerful Viking ship museum (1926-1957) by Arnstein Arneberg respectfully frames the exhibition with its curved, seamless walls providing the most neutral possible backdrop for experiencing the collection. Complementing the strong form of the Viking Museum, the new museum is a worthy counterpart, exploring the contrasts between building and nature, between controlled and uncontrolled spaces, between object and subject.
Like the territorialization of the Viking culture it contains, our vision is to build a future culture of the museum that is not predicated on in or out, but inclusive, urban, collective, occupied and inviting.
The beautiful site today lies dormant with little activity besides the processions of parking and walking, entering and leaving. To the northwest is a perfect opportunity to connect the museum to Norsk Folkemuseum and with that, an unbeknown garden is discovered replete with maker space and auditorium.
The Arneberg icon maintains its prominent position atop Huk Aveny. Through the liberation of the souterrain (ala Le Louvre) the Viking Museum becomes the main protagonist to its social and cultural contemporaries: a thickened plaza, a production village, and super corridor. The architecture and programs are organized to maximize flows and friction of people and space.
Many of the visitors to the Viking ship museum will never enter the controlled space. Are non-ticketed visitors important to the museum? Peeping visitors, readers, walkers, hanging out intellectuals, café goers, relaxing neighbors, and shoppers. Like the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the museum is an invaluable public space and important actor in the urban iconography of the city. Our vision for the VTM makes space for the non-designed, non-programmed, and unknowns of the city. SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY through the democratization of space ensures the longevity and success of the Vikingtidsmuseet.
The new VTM will be visited by tourists, locals, families, schools, people with a lot of time, and people with only a little time. Flexibility in circulation is essential to the success of the contemporary museum. By making the existing Viking museum the spine of the new VTM we provide independent access to boats, in-depth galleries, icon trail, special exhibition and auditorium, offering many possible combinations of movements through the galleries and hence stimulating dynamic relationships between the many different visitors.
Architecturally, the contrast of spaces with different prerequisites should reflect the Viking's narrative, as surprising as the world explored, and at the same time the values at home. The Dionysian space contrasted with its Cartesian architectural counterpart creates an unfolding of plan and sectional space - a fluid visual landscape - that has its roots in The Norwegian. We propose an alternative to the ‘predominant’ museum discourse, either a white box’ or the building as an icon, defined and highly performant. A balance of symbiosis and independence achieved through dependent characters interacting, colliding and collaborating – this is the Nature Theater.
A rough and smooth, intimate and expansive, soft and orthogonal, horizontal and grounded space.
Upon entering THE BOATHOUSE the visitor descends below the Oseberg ship reframed in a large vitrine providing a rare and spectacular view of its underside from the new “super-lobby” below. The three large ships comprise the first experience and the last part of the sequence before exiting – tying the museum loop to the boathouse. The super-lobby connects all the functions of the museum: shortcuts, long routes, access to the garden, museum shop, ticketing and wardrobe. In this ‘Free’ zone we also have the possibility of doing alternative exhibitions, hosting events, and break out space for the auditorium.
Intersecting this new ‘super-lobby’ with its technical counterpart, the ‘super-corridor’, the front and back of the house are seamlessly connected, providing optimal distances for artifact handling and servicing, and marking the crossing point with the auditorium; a platform for public exchange. The super corridor is tied into it own loop in the middle, a spiral that effortlessly connects the main exhibition to special exhibitions and further upwards to the panopticon restaurant and rooftop terrace.
The main exhibition space is conceived as a clear rectangular ‘Miesian' space, one that through its tactical placement on the site, specific relationship to existing building, the context, the interstitial spaces and the geology of the site. The bedrock while untouched is exposed in the building – a natural architecture providing the backdrop for the artifacts.
Unlike a painting gallery with objects hung on the wall, our collection will largely display artifacts in a field condition providing 360 degrees views. It is here we are able to explore an inversion with the backdrop of the museum –the walls - washed in daylight providing a base level illumination for the new exhibition areas.
Investigating the existing building we discovered hidden potential, which through its reinterpretation could elevate the performance of the existing building without compromising its historical value. Preservation starts with a respect and understanding of architecture in a historical, cultural and social context. Rather than tired notion of individuality that consumes architecture, we wanted to create a situation of where the new and old merge effortlessly together, building a new identity without either compromising the other.
By equipping the existing building to be the catalyst for the future development, the history is not only preserved but also enriched, value added.
Through the liberation of the ‘ground’ floor, we are able to create a much more efficient building with minimal corridors and circulation, enhancing the experiencing of the exhibition, its flexibility, and not least of which the costs in construction and operation.
With a minimum of surface contact with the existing building, little excavation (with no intrusion on bedrock), and a straightforward structural system the project allows for a phaseable and effective realization. With the majority of the complex on one level, the loads and hence foundations are minimal.
The workshops and administrative core – the village - use lightweight, prefabricated wooden wall panels that both ensure the build quality through fabrication and speed of assembly on the building site.
Our approach does not require the removal of the ships from the existing building, a highly contentious and difficult operation.