Moesgaard Museum

by | 23. Apr 2015

Cultural | Feature | Landscape/ urban area
Moesgård_Museum_Henning_Larsen_Architects-13.jpg

The museum sits proudly as an extension of the landscape. Moesgaard Museum, Henning Larsen Architects © 2015 Robert Martin

By Robert Martin

Surrounded by woods on the outskirts of Aarhus, Denmark, the new Moesgaard Museum (MOMU), designed by Danish firm, Henning Larsen Architects (HLA), offers a new perspective on the role of the museum as a public space.

The new Moesgaard Museum was opened in October 2014 to house specialized archaeological and ethnographic exhibitions. It was designed by HLA and commissioned through an invited competition process.

Moesgård_Museum_Henning_Larsen_Architects-1.jpg

The colossal roof structure erupts from the ground. Moesgaard Museum, Henning Larsen Architects © 2015 Robert Martin

The museum’s overall concept is inspired from the process of archaeological excavation. This is articulated through a powerful gesture; a colossal sloped roof structure that erupts from the ground. The roof acts both as a container for all museum functions below while also providing an accessible public space on top. Rather than the rooftop being a secondary function of the building, visitors appear to appreciate the view just as much as the exhibitions below. Indeed, climbing the zigzagging path up the roof before entering the museum almost feels like a rite of passage.

Moesgård_Museum_Henning_Larsen_Architects-11.jpg

A mixture of visitors and locals meander over the roofscape. Moesgaard Museum, Henning Larsen Architects © 2015 Robert Martin

Amidst a picturesque landscape of rolling hills and dense forest, the almost brutalistic concrete roof structure could be seen as quite imposing. However, HLA’s decision to turf the top with grass, moss and wild flowers softens the building and blends it into its surroundings. Furthermore, the design draws on a palette of raw materials to reinforce that this is a building deeply connected to the land, its history and its ancient culture.

Moesgård_Museum_Henning_Larsen_Architects-2.jpg

The museum’s roof merges seamlessly into the surrounding landscape. Moesgaard Museum, Henning Larsen Architects © 2015 Robert Martin

Apart from concrete, which is used extensively to create a monolithic and robust form, the building is punctuated with softer humanizing materials such as glass and timber. Vertical timber lamellas echo the trunks of the nearby forest as they break the façade into slim panes of glass. This highly transparent façade dissolves the boundary between the interior and exterior as well as flooding the inside with natural light.

Moesgård_Museum_Henning_Larsen_Architects-5.jpg

Double height glass facades dissolve the boundary between interior and exterior and create large light-filled spaces. Moesgaard Museum, Henning Larsen Architects © 2015 Robert Martin

The building is laid out on simple perpendicular axes. The horizontal axis is an open, light filled hall consisting of an entry foyer, ticketing, museum shop and a large dining area. Despite being buried under tons of concrete and earth, the high ceilings, plentiful daylight and excellent acoustic performance give an air of openness. A grand staircase cuts this space in half, allowing visitors to reach the upper and lower exhibition spaces. The staircase also acts as a gathering place with double height stairs creating seating for visitors.

Moesgård_Museum_Henning_Larsen_Architects-7.jpg

The grand staircases also acts as a gathering point in the heart of the museum. Moesgaard Museum, Henning Larsen Architects © 2015 Robert Martin

In contrast to the light-filled hall, it is only when visitors descend down the stairs into the large exhibition space that they experience the subterranean nature of both the building and the archaeological findings it houses. The lower exhibition rooms consist of large cavernous spaces with no natural daylight. Visitors are offered opportunities of respite from the darkness through a series of breakout spaces. After being underground for so long, these spaces reconnect the visitor with the outside and offer a chance to rest and reflect.

Moesgård_Museum_Henning_Larsen_Architects-6.jpg

Breakout spaces offer periods of respite from the underground exhibition spaces. Moesgaard Museum, Henning Larsen Architects © 2015 Robert Martin

The usual judge of success for such a high caliber museum would focus on the clarity of the overall concept, quality of finishing and functionality – in these categories MOMU would excel. However, MOMU is successful as a building, as well, because its sloping roof has provided locals with a new dynamic public space. During the warmer months, the area also functions as a picnic spot with views over Aarhus Bay while in wintertime, with the snowfall, it is transformed into the area’s largest sledding spot. Opportunities such as these may seem like a lucky consequence of the building design, but with so many Danish architecture firms currently questioning how buildings can give back to the public realm, it is obvious that this was a conscious design motivation by HLA.

Moesgård_Museum_Henning_Larsen_Architects-12.jpg

A family enjoys a picnic in the sun on the museum’s roofscape. Moesgaard Museum, Henning Larsen Architects © 2015 Robert Martin

Moesgård_Museum_Henning_Larsen_Architects-3.jpg

Large voids punctuate the roof and provide private gardens for the museum employees. Moesgaard Museum, Henning Larsen Architects © 2015 Robert Martin

Moesgård_Museum_Henning_Larsen_Architects-4.jpg

Steel and concrete staircases lead to the employee’s private courtyards. Moesgaard Museum, Henning Larsen Architects © 2015 Robert Martin

Moesgård_Museum_Henning_Larsen_Architects-9.jpg

The fractured glass facade reflects the surrounding nature. Moesgaard Museum, Henning Larsen Architects © 2015 Robert Martin

Moesgård_Museum_Henning_Larsen_Architects-10.jpg

A large cast concrete bridge provides entry to the museum. Moesgaard Museum, Henning Larsen Architects © 2015 Robert Martin

Moesgård_Museum_Henning_Larsen_Architects-14_Resized.jpg

During the snowy months the roof is transformed into the areas largest sledding hill. Moesgaard Museum, Henning Larsen Architects © 2014 Martin Schubert

Moesgård_Museum_Henning_Larsen_Architects-15_Resized.jpg

Children sledding down the museum roof. Moesgaard Museum, Henning Larsen Architects © 2014 Martin Schubert

Moesgård_Museum_Henning_Larsen_Architects-16_Resized.jpg

Concept sketch from competition Moesgaard Museum, Henning Larsen Architects © 2008 Henning Larsen Architects

Moesgård_Museum_Henning_Larsen_Architects-17_Resized.jpg

Presentation model from competition Moesgaard Museum, Henning Larsen Architects © 2008 Henning Larsen Architects

Moesgård_Museum_Henning_Larsen_Architects-18.png

Section through Moesgaard Museum, Henning Larsen Architects © 2008 Henning Larsen Architects

Moesgård_Museum_Henning_Larsen_Architects-19.png

Site plan of Moesgaard Museum, Henning Larsen Architects © 2008 Henning Larsen Architects


INFORMATION

CITY Aarhus
COUNTRY Denmark
ARCHITECT Henning Larsen Architects

CLIENT

CONTRACTOR

PUBLISHER