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Artist wants to build A House to Die In on the former site of Edvard Munch’s studio
A black, UFO-like villa with animal-shaped pillars a few meters from the site of The Scream’s author: Snøhetta’s project for Bjarne Melgaard
Located on the outskirts of Oslo, A House to Die In is the result of an 8 year collaborative process between Snøhetta and Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard
Designed for Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard, Snøhetta’s project A House to Die In involves an architecture that could eventually change forever the landscape that inspired Edvard Munch. In the last 28 years of his life, Munch lived in a country home on the outskirts of Oslo, where he completed hundreds of paintings and drawings. The property, named Ekely, has become a real pilgrimage destination over the years despite the fact that Munch’s villa has been demolished in the 1980s, that the studio is not open to the public and that the site houses, today, a community of 44 artists established in the 1950s.
Recently, however, Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard’s project to build an eccentric home on a nearby hill has triggered a heated debate on the preservation of The Scream's author’s legacy.
A House to Die In is meant to become Meelgard’s next residence. The artist has often been styled as the enfant terrible of the Norwegian art scene because of his exploration of sexual and drug-related themes: “An innovative idea or a threat to the past?” both artists and journalists wonder, worried that the project might modify the last remains of Munch’s landscape by clouding the site’s historic importance.
Photo credits © Getty Images
This project by Studio Snøhetta, renowned for its iconic architectures, e.g. the recent extension to the Lillehammer Art Museum and the Muttrah Fish Market – features a sort of big, black UFO supported by animal-shaped pillars – a blend of architecture and art inspired by Melgaard’s meaningful works.
A work that has been conceived in order to subvert Scandinavian ideas about durability and, maybe, minimalism as well: “Nothing lasts forever, so I was interested in the concept of having a home to die in, of which to say ‘this is my end station’”, the artist explained.
Further inspiration for this project was provided by the homes of drug lords, such as those of Afghan opium barons, who are not just haunted by the specter of death, he said, but also with “crazy mixtures of different architectural styles”.
“Translating Melgaard’s art into architecture involved a meticulous digital process consisting in the shaping of models starting from a small sized triangular pattern,” explain Snøhetta architects in order to illustrate how the idea of this burned oak wood shell, inspired by Japanese building tradition, has been developed to conceal Melgaard’s artistic universe and home concept. While one of the rooms can be used either as a pool or as a dining room, another one functions both as a workstation and as a spa: a practical symbol of how settled conventions should not influence either the edifice purpose or its design.
A shallow water pond just under the building creates the illusion of a “floating” edifice, while a further area named “the drug room” – which the architects said would be suspended from the house walls and ceiling - is intended not for the use of narcotics but in order to create a feeling of disorientation.
Photo credits © MIR and Snøhetta
Further eccentricities include an item of inflatable furniture described as a “sex pillow”, a tiger-shaped underground studio and a 40-foot tower – all of them rejected by landscape preservation authorities.
“I believe this talk about the Munch’s legacy is ridiculous,” Mr. Melgaard said, noting that the deceased artist’s property had already been altered by the construction of the artists’ colony, and that a building had already stood at the site planned for A House to Die In in Munch’s day.
While artists, journalists and authorities keep arguing on the subject, the Directorate for Cultural Heritage is set to give its verdict on the project within the next few weeks. If the project is approved, it would then go to a building authority and to the City Council for final approval.
“We have to recognize that it’s an emotional debate,” said Kjetil Traedal Thorsen, a founding partner of Snøhetta. “If there weren’t any emotional points of view connected to this, then it would have meant most of the population would have been ignorant of it.”