Hedmark Museum, Norway
The following is a reflection on my visit to the Hedmark Museum and the Making Architecture Research Studio (MARS) studio survey.
After surveying this site, the context model produced a new understanding that not only reflected my visit, but the shared experience of the studio unit in this exhibition.
The former Archbishop's Palace within the Hedmark Museum presents to the visitor an unravelling series of layers. Like the layers of history entwined within the site, the building's fabric itself is layered. The strata of Archbishop's Palace, later barn and museum interweave to create a rich tapestry, which can be interpreted and explored if one looks closely.
Just as the building is in layers, so is Sverre Fehn's exhibition. Exploring the history of the Hedmark region, the artefacts are meticulously exhibited within an infrastructure of display cases, armatures and plinths, which marry steel, glass and stone. The ruins within the museum themselves become an exhibit, concrete ramps and modules hovering over them, as if weightless. Artefacts are then displayed alongside the ruins on armatures projecting off the ramps. Within the modules, accessed off the ramps, precious artefacts are meticulously displayed as if to be venerated. In turn, the exhibits become another layer within the building, sewn into the building's fabric rather than appended.
This layering creates a level of understanding that surpasses any offered by a reconstruction as in other museums, where the artefacts are divorced from their environment. Even without reading the literature or signs, some form of an understanding could be achieved, even if slightly imagined. The strength of the unity of exhibit, museum and ruin somehow creates a subconscious link to the Hedmark revealed through observation and intuition.
The 'Global' group, of which I was a member, surveyed the courtyard of the museum. The undulating stone floor of the courtyard was punctuated in places with the naked remains of the Archbishop's Palace. Here, the exposed plan of the Palace can be observed, the East Gate and Keep. Having not been consumed by the later barns, this archaeology has been left exposed to the elements and bears the marks of this.
From the confusion of stones, the East wall curves away from the North range of the museum, parabolically wrapping around. Wrapped by this wall, the remains of the Keep, once the centre of the Palace, lie unsheltered, as if an afterthought. Open to the basement and with the former walls now below waist-height, these remains are should be a dominant feature.
Amongst the other unidentified remains, the main well, another once-important feature is overshadowed by Fehn's arcing ramp, paying homage to the East wall. This concrete ramp now dominates the courtyard, a reminder of the intervention which also creeps out from the base of the West range. The intervention is now the important feature, yet with the statement of the ramp echoing the East wall, Fehn declares that the ruins in the courtyard are important too.
Somehow this has been lost on published plans where the courtyard languishes in confusion. The well, once an important feature, becomes orphaned from its location, clearly drawn in the wrong place. The other ruins are drawn as if to fill an empty space with only the East wall given any real consideration.
Through the 'Global' team's re-connection with the courtyard, a new interpretation of the ruins and their collective involvement within the corpus of the museum is evaluated. Through addressing the layering of the fabric - ruin, barn and Palace - it hoped that the MARS areas of survey will re-explore Fehn's interventions and create a new understanding of the Archbishop's Palace within the Hedmark Museum.View Gallery.