Book Review – Sverre Fehn: The Pattern of Thoughts

After I got back from Europe, I picked up the book Sverre Fehn: The Pattern of Thoughts by Per Olaf Fjeld. I was first made aware of this book after Fehn’s passing by a classmate of mine that shares similar thoughts on the notion of phenomena. It is one of the most inspiring and thought provoking books I have read. It contains documentation of all of Fehn’s works, his sketches, watercolors, as well as quotes and notes from Fjeld’s 20+ years of working with Fehn in both office and academia. The way that Fehn mixed global theory with Norwegian regionalism is absolutely inspiring, creating a great sense of place within Fehn’s work.

Norwegian Glacier Museum – Fjærland

“How shall we respond to man and his objects affixed to the surface of the earth? Everything we build must be adjusted in relation to the ground, thus the horizon becomes an important aspect of architecture. My interest has always been where to put man in relation to the horizon in a built environment. What qualities shall he draw out of the landscape?”

Fehn’s notions of moving the horizon in the relationship between heaven and earth, man and ground, man and heaven was one of the most fascinating things I have ever read, and many of his ideas have subconsciously found their way into my studio project. The poetic narrative that Fehn lays out, especially within the architecture and exhibits of his museums has lead me to apply for a travel fellowship to go to Norway next year and study all of his museums.

“To build a museum where there is no object, the museum becomes the object and architecture the story. It is a search into the surface of the earth…. The invisible becomes the visible.”

“To exhibit an object, I must become the object…
The invisible museum belongs to the earth’s crust. In its dark depths, the objects talk. Once the surface is broken, the objects are lifted out into loneliness’s light. The reason is history.”

Hedmark County Museum – Hamar

Aukrust Center – Alvdal

Fehn has largely been one of the lesser known modernist architects of our time due to both the isolation of Norway as well as the remoteness of the vast majority of his projects. Most of his museums are located in the fjord country of western Norway, all of far away from the major cities of Oslo and Bergen except for the Nasjonalmuseet Arkitekter in Oslo. His work greatly inspires me as I search for my personal meanings of radical contextualism and the both/and conditions versus the either/or condition.

Ivar Aasen Center – Ørsta

I definitely suggest anyone that is into materiality, phenomenology and the notion of place to read this very insightful work. Hopefully by this time next year I will have plenty of sketches, watercolors, pictures, etc… of these wonderful works after a trip to Norway to see his museums.

(P.S. adding to post since I’m migrating websites – I did go see his museums, and have plenty of sketches and pictures. I liked Norway so much I went a second time, and will probably go every few years until I die).
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Josh Mings

Architect and painter. Columbus, IN born, New Orleans educated, Chicago living and trying to leave the world better than I found it.