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Peter Zumthor’s Minimalist Museum for Zinc Mining Takes Shape in Norway

Part of Peter Zumthor's developing zinc mine museum in Norway in October 2014 (Photo: Arne Espeland/Kon- Sul AS)
Part of Peter Zumthor’s developing zinc mine museum in Norway in October 2014 (Photo: Arne Espeland/Kon- Sul AS)

Set to open in the summer of 2016, a sleek museum designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor for a Norwegian zinc mine has been over a decade in the making, although parts of the attraction are already in place. The arrangement of buildings with its exposed beams, some perched on existing stone structures, is part of Norway’s National Tourist Routes.

The ambitious creation of 18 routes by the Norwegian Public Roads Administration, started in 1994, includes an impressive roster of local and national artists and architects collaborating on structures and installations along the road. The project is harnessing the old roadside attraction idea, except instead of fiberglass dinosaurs or mystery houses luring travelers to more rural locales, we are presented with modernist rest stops or a sleeping bear in a cave diorama by artist Mark Dion.

Part of Peter Zumthor's developing zinc mine museum in Norway in October 2014 (Photo: Arne Espeland/Kon- Sul AS)
Part of Peter Zumthor’s developing zinc mine museum in Norway in October 2014 (photo by Arne Espeland/Kon-Sul AS) (click to enlarge)

Designboom shared images of the in-progress zinc mine museum this week. Located in Allmannajuvet, it will be dedicated to the mining that took place there from 1881 to 1899. As Icon reported last year, Zumthor was commissioned for this museum of industrial heritage in 2002, but a combination of the instability of the mountains with the architect’s meticulous work pace, which has made his minimalist architecture so striking, has meant long delays. In the subsequent years since the commission, a memorial Zumthor designed in collaboration with the late Louise Bourgeois opened as part of the National Tourist Routes. Situated on the Arctic island of Vardø, it memorializes 91 people burned for witchcraft in the 17th century, with a long structure that looks something like a ship’s hull under construction culminating with a steel chair engulfed by flames.

The overall goal of the National Tourist Routes is to bring visitors into overlooked Norwegian landscapes, and make their history and natural beauty accessible. So far it has included the “Rock on Top of Another Rock” precarious installation by Peter Fischli and David Weiss in Steinplassen, and a stone window by Knut Wold in the high altitude of Sognefjellet. Later this month, Ken Schluchtmann is releasing a book of photographs of the architecture on the National Tourist Route with Hatje Cantz. The initiative has already had an impact on other countries looking to bring road tourism to their remote regions. Scotland’s Scottish Scenic Routes project was directly inspired by it, with new art last year including a steel tunnel by John Kennedy and a mirror “Lookout” cabin by Daniel Tyler and Angus Ritchie. By bringing in contemporary artists and architects to respond to the landscape, the idea is one that could reinvigorate more of the world’s roadway journeys for new visitors.

Louise Bourgeois installation in collaboration with Peter Zumthor in Vardø, memorializing 91 people burned for witchcraft (© Photo: Hege Lysholm/NPRA)
Louise Bourgeois installation in collaboration with Peter Zumthor in Vardø, memorializing 91 people burned for witchcraft (© Hege Lysholm/NPRA)
Night at the memorial hall for the 91 burned for witchcraft, designed by Peter Zumthor around art by Louise Bourgeois (© Bjarne Riesto/www.riesto.no)
Night at the memorial hall for the 91 burned for witchcraft, designed by Peter Zumthor around art by Louise Bourgeois (© Bjarne Riesto/www.riesto.no)
Sculpture by Knut Wold at Mefjell (© Photo: Jarle Wæhler/NPRA)
Sculpture by Knut Wold at Mefjell (© Jarle Wæhler/NPRA)
Bear cave installation by Mark Dion on the mountain road between Lærdal & Aurland (© Photo: Roger Ellingsen/NPRA)
Bear cave installation by Mark Dion on the mountain road between Lærdal & Aurland (© Roger Ellingsen/NPRA)

See more of the art and architecture of Norway’s National Tourist Routes on the project’s website

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