Aukrustsenteret (Alvdal) – Sverre Fehn

A two-hour train ride from Hamar, through the rivers and forests of Eastern Norway sits the tiny town of Alvdal and the Aukrustsenteret, dedicated to Kjell Aukrust; an internationally known cartoonist, author and inventor born and raised in Alvdal. Alvdal is a tiny town situated at the beginnings of the Fedmundsmarka, a mountainous region of largely undisturbed forest and wilderness. Fehn took this context into consideration in his design of the Aukrustsenteret, creating a long, linear barrier on the outskirts of town, protecting it from the wilderness beyond.

The Aukrustsenteret showcases the life and creations of Kjell Aukrust, an author, cartoonist, and inventor. He is well known for his novels and cartoons (his monument near the train station is a bust of himself surrounded by his cartoon characters) as well as the inventions contained within. Fehn’s idea of a linear barrier combined with the tripartite aspect of Aukrust’s life work became the formal and conceptual drivers for the Aukrustsenteret.

Fehn creates a long, linear barrier out of two programmatic bars and several exhibition rooms looking onto the landscape of the Fedmundsmarka. The first bar, a triangular form clad in slate and punctuated by three entryways contains all of the service and administrative functions for the center and is the first line of the barrier between town and wilderness. A second bar of concrete and glass serves as exhibition space, café seating and circulation. This bar opens up with views towards the mountains and forests of the Fedmundsmarka and serves as the spine of the building, with access to outside, exhibition rooms and service bar and the auditorium at its head. The exhibitions rooms off of the spine cut off the connection to the landscape save for a few small openings and are clad in a loose stone rain screen.

The Aukrustsenteret uses similar materials to the majority of Fehn’s buildings: concrete, glass, stone, slate, wood; but there are some different uses here. Facing Alvdal, the façade is massive and composed of concrete and slate, with only the texture of the slate, three openings, and wood shakes covering the auditorium to bring an otherwise oppressive barrier back to a human scale. The axial setup of the entry road and entrance to the museum enhances the experience of walking up and going through a barrier between town and wilderness. Towards the Fedmundsmarka, the façade becomes varied due to the exhibition rooms. The spine turns from concrete to glazing with wood columns expressed on the structural grid. Exhibition rooms are clad in a loose stone as is created from stacks of stone blasted from the landscape of the Fedmundsmarka, which like the fjord region is largely granite and other bedrock. The auditorium and temporary exhibition area are concrete clad with wooden shakes. These materials create a contextual connection with the landscape while the vast glazing provides a visual connection for the museumgoer. A plinth of rubble and built-up earth allows the center to stand slightly about the valley, with a raised earthen walkway out into the wilderness.

The massive materials found on the exterior give way to a softer wood interior. The concrete barrier addressing the street is reduced to expressed structure on the interior through inlays of pine boards, rendering the stark concrete barrier into a soft, wooden wall suitable for display of drawings and paintings. Towards the Fedmundsmarka, concrete columns give way to custom glue-lam pine columns on a strict, regular interval, allowing contrast between the regularity of the spine, and irregularity of the exhibition rooms. Wood extends to the ceiling with veneered plywood cladding the ceiling plane, lights and services following the structural rhythm throughout. The exhibition rooms become completely clad in wood in contrast of their exterior of loose stone, almost as if they have become caves in the landscape (the cave being a question of Fehn’s for the majority of his career, how it interacts with man and earth). The spine of the building merges the soft wood of the exhibition rooms with the hard concrete of the exterior, serving to create an interstitial space between Alvdal/service spaces and Fedmundsmarka/Aukrust’s travels and work.

Next time, Lillehammer and Maihaugen, with more of a focus on Lillehammer since Fehn’s competition entry (his first win back in 1949) was heavily modified and changed. After that the Norsk Arkitekturmuseet, Oslo, and some of the great works of architecture found there.

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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.