MUNCH Museum exterior
COURTESY ADRIA GOULA

Bowing Towards Oslo, the New MUNCH Museum Transforms the City’s Skyline

The gigantic new museum with its iconic angled roof is a cumulation of ecological innovation.

Located in the cultural district Bjørvika of Norway’s capital, along with the opera house designed by Snøhetta and the Deichman main library by Lund Hagem Architects and Atelier Oslo, the vertiginous MUNCH museum completes a triptych of outstanding contemporary architecture along Oslo’s waterfront. The MUNCH museum’s crooked glass edifice was designed by Madrid-based architecture firm studio Herreros and opened in October 2021.

197 feet in height and featuring a top that cantilevers out to bow towards the city, the tower enriches Oslo’s skyline with an all-around visible homage to the country’s most renowned artist Edvard Munch (1863–1944).

The museum houses the collection of over 26,000 works Munch bequeathed to Oslo — including monumental mural paintings like “The Sun”, which stretches nearly 24 feet wide, and his iconic expressionist masterpiece “The Scream”.

“This vertical symbol represents a collective dream,” Juan Herreros, lead architect on the project and professor of Professional Practice at Columbia GSAPP, said about the building’s prominence. 

Comprising 283,000 square feet (five times the size of the original building it replaces) and increasing the exhibition areas fourfold across 13 floors and 11 galleries, MUNCH is one of the world’s largest museums dedicated to a single artist. 

MUNCH museum exterior on waterfront
The new MUNCH museum occupies pride of place on Oslo’s harborside. COURTESY EINAR ASLAKSEN

The tower sits on a three-story podium and presents two zones. The static zone is an enclosed concrete structure, which complies with stringent security, humidity and daylight requirements to protect the art within. In the dynamic zone, visitors can move between the exhibition areas and a restaurant and observation area on the top floor with views overlooking the city and the fjord.

Estudio Herreros designed the MUNCH in accordance with the Oslo-wide initiative FutureBuilt and Passive Building standards. FutureBuilt structures must at least halve their greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional modern buildings in terms of transportation, energy consumption, and material choices.

interior gallery showing patrons viewing art
The museum comprises 13 floors and 11 galleries, massively increasing the amount of art that can be shown at any one time. COURTESY EINAR ASLAKSEN

MUNCH has been built using low-carbon concrete and recycled steel, and its load-bearing structure has been designed with a technical lifetime of 200 years. Recycled, perforated aluminum panels with varying degrees of translucency clad the building, screening and reflecting sunlight to avoid excessive temperature fluctuations.

The tower’s concrete body was built in only 33 days and rests atop 300 pilings that descend 131 feet into the fjord.

“It’s erected in a so-called slip form, that’s a Norwegian technology developed for the construction of oil platforms,” said estudio Herreros’ partner Jens Richter.

In order to safeguard the priceless art from damage, the structure uses airlocks to control temperature and humidity at the transition points between the dynamic and static zones. These systems also allow the use of energy-saving, natural ventilation in the visitor area. The building connects to a district heating system and a seawater cooling plant, and also features an energy control system that optimizes consumption. 

interior museum cafe
From the museum cafe, guests can enjoy views of Oslo’s waterfront and cityscape. COURTESY EINAR ASLAKSEN

Further expanding its sustainability bona fides, MUNCH has no visitor or staff car-parking spaces. Its proximity to the city’s largest public transport hub and the 100 cycle-parking areas at Edvard Munchs plass negate any need to arrive by car.

Despite the many green technologies at work, Herreros clarified that he doesn’t like the passive house description. 

“It really is a super active house,” the Spanish architect said about the MUNCH.

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