Norway transforms old grain silo into museum

Norway built numerous grain silos in coastal cities during the interwar years, to ward off the risk of shortages and famine.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
11 May 2024 Saturday 22:40
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Norway transforms old grain silo into museum

Norway built numerous grain silos in coastal cities during the interwar years, to ward off the risk of shortages and famine. For example, the one in Kristiansand, built in 1935 with fifteen large concrete cylinders, to which another number were added in 1939, with a total capacity of 15,000 tons.

When the 21st century arrived, many of these facilities were in disuse, and the authorities considered what to do with them: demolish them or give them a new life.

The one in Kristiansand was cataloged in 2010 and, subsequently, it was decided to transform it into a museum, which opened its doors yesterday Saturday, as home to several collections, among which the Nordic art of the Norwegian magnate Nicolai Tangen, head of the Fund of Norwegian Government Pensions.

Transforming an industrial building like this, which is sculptural but dark and closed in on itself, into a museum is not an easy task. Its initial purpose and the current one have nothing to do with each other.

So the three teams in charge of the work, all based in Barcelona, ​​opted for a radical solution: cutting the silos 21 meters from the ground, securing the upper part through complex structural work, and eliminating the lower part.

In this way, an interior with vaulted ceilings and a cathedral dimension is achieved, which serves as a large lobby in the manner, overcoming the distances, of the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern in London, and which will be open to all citizens.

This space is impressive, although it is still somewhat dark, despite the light that enters through the transparent south side of the building, where the vertical communications are located.

Natural light has also been sought in one of the two bodies attached to the silos, specifically the one in the West wing, originally a warehouse, whose ground floor is now glazed, transparent, as is also the ninth and upper floor, intended for events and terraces with panoramic views over the port.

The image obtained at this upper level of the work evokes that of a collection of lighthouses, and is therefore very appropriate in this coastal area.

The main façade of this body is a reinterpretation of the original, in which the rationalist elements have been emphasized, for example in the balconies.

For its part, the east body, newly built and with essential lines, contains successive white boxes, which are added to those that surround the silos to the west and north on floors two, three and four, reserved for exhibitions.

The fruit of this transformative operation is a building in which the new and the old are integrated with no little harmony and benefit: this is one of its greatest successes.

The paradox is that the transformation, while pertinent, has its limits: the museum cannot be inside the silos, but around them. That's probably of little importance.

Kunstsilo joins the Kilden Performing Arts Center and the Knuden arts school, reinforcing the cultural character of the city, in whose port some 150 cruise ships now dock a year.

Cities that a little less than a century ago stored grain to survive today complement their rich diet with tourism and culture.