So hysterical, these architects and their brethren. Why on earth would an architectural paean to a Nazi sympathizer in the Arctic Circle be controversial? Knut Hamsun is one of the most highly regarded authors Norway ever produced; he also gifted his Nobel Prize to Joseph Goebbels, Nazi propagandist and one of Hitler’s besties. And then there’s the building, constructed in time for the writer’s 150th birthday. We examine the issues after the jump.
Among other insults, detractors have related the design to an “outhouse” and allege that the “off-kilter,” aggressively contemporary tower intrudes on the pastoral rural landscape of Hamarøy, the tiny farming and fishing village where Hamsun spent much of his life. Architect Steven Holl obviously disagrees, describing the center’s concept of “building as a body,” with a stained black skin meant to reference Norwegian churches, a spine with central elevator, and a traditional Norwegian grass and sod roof.
Photo: Ernst Furuhatt/Courtesy Steven Holl Architects.
The Knut Hamsun Centre commemorates Norway’s most famous novelist, sometimes attributed as the father of the modern novel and inspiration to the likes of Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, Franz Kafka, HG Wells and Isaac Bashevis Singer. As an octogenarian, however, Hamsun vocalized his support of the Nazi party and repeatedly spoke out in favor of Germany during its occupation of Norway during World War II, even calling Hitler “a warrior for mankind” in the obituary he wrote for the Chancellor in the nation’s Evening Post. Unsurprisingly, many Norwegians have found it hard to separate Hamsun’s politics from his creative oeuvre, and the museum memorializing his life’s work is unlikely to fade into oblivious anytime soon.
The new Knut Hamsun Centre in situ. Photo: Ernst Furuhatt/Courtesy Steven Holl Architects.