Northern Denmark is home to an architectural treasure, the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art, which houses contemporary art by Danish and foreign artists, and is the only museum outside of Finland designed by world-renowned architect Alvar Aalto. After 50 years, the museum is undergoing a radical restoration lead by architect Erik Møller with a planned reopening for fall 2015.
Møller’s vision is to create a modern, highly efficient museum within the existing framework. His previous projects include the Royal Danish Theatre, and Amalienborg, the principal residence of the Danish monarch.
In 1957, Aalto conceived the design of the museum in collaboration with Elissa Aalto and Jean-Jacques Baruël. The result was an art museum that is a work of art in itself. The building was designed in a light, organic, modernist style with an entirely unique distinctive inflow of light. Throughout the building, the choice of materials is unique, ranging from the custom-designed copper Aalto lights to the marble on the floors and outer walls.
“We want to maintain Aalto and Baruël’s architectural vision for the building, both inside and out,” said Trine Neble of Erik Møller Arkitekter. “That means that all surfaces and details will be retained or recycled, wherever possible. On one hand, it is cheaper and more sustainable to reuse existing resources. On the other hand, the minimal extension will leave the listed building as it was originally conceived.”
The $130 million project will be closely scrutinized by the Danish Agency for Culture, which is responsible for the protection of the building.
“In both cultural-historical and architectural terms, Kunsten in Aalborg is a very special building,” said Jesper Dahl, Head of Department at the Danish Agency for Culture. “It is an exceptional Danish testimony to Alvar Aalto’s masterful treatment of space, form, light and materials for a solid-cast modernist structure. So, it is a major and exciting challenge for the Danish Agency for Culture to be involved in updating the museum’s facilities while, at the same time, protecting its overall listed values, including preservation of its characteristic details and use of space.”
New features include a 6,500 square foot exhibition space in the basement, new facilities for children, and general improvements. The architecture practice Transform is in charge of the newly-constructed elements in the building in partnership with Møller.
“I am certain that the renovation will be conducted with total respect for Alvar Aalto’s brilliant building while accommodating the necessary art and visitor facilities, which a museum of the future requires,” said Gitte Ørskou, Museum Director.
While construction work is in progress, the museum will move to the city and travel around the country. It will exhibit a number of major works in museums throughout Denmark, including the National Gallery of Denmark in Copenhagen and Museum Jorn in the town of Silkeborg. The museum will also visit all local primary schools with a mobile education program which will provide children with a fun, educational experience of art during school time. Kunsten will also create a variety of “pop-up” exhibitions and events at various sites in Aalborg.