The Norwegian Petroleum Museum
The architectural designs of both the building and exhibitions are primarily scenographic readings of oil installations in the North Sea and the geology of oil.
The stone clad main building is an interpretation of the Norwegian bedrock where the forces of nature, through hundreds of millions of years, have passed sediment to the North Sea, creating the basis for oil. The exhibition hall resembles a space in the landscape facing the sea where the black slate floors allude to the petrified slate and limestone sediment on the bottom of the North Sea, where raw oil is found in similar types of stone.
Three cylindrical platforms stand in the sea. From the exhibition hall and these cylinders there is a stunning view towards the Stavanger fjord, a wharf for oil rigs, and further towards the North Sea itself. Inland views are of the massive Ryfylke Mountains.
The building is situated in the Stavanger harbor basin close to the historic town center. In contrast to the picturesque wooden houses, the museum is a monumental, organic structure. The main building is like a huge block of stone, while the cylinders in the sea are like ships or platforms at the dock.
Even though the building contrasts with its environs, it has geometric references to buildings in the vicinity, with their long and narrow storehouses. Lines of vision and spatial configurations relating to the town’s master plan are preserved.
The museum’s skewed angles reflect the silhouettes of the wooden houses. A speedboat terminal close to the plaza in front of the museum, as proposed in the winning scheme, has not yet been built. Until it is, the square seems large and unbounded.
Beyond the collection of artifacts, the museum is an experience in itself. The cylindrical platforms create excitement as one wanders from the check in stairs in the exhibition hall through the cylindrical tube that alludes to a helicopter journey to the North Sea.
The outer cylinder is the life on the platform, with a drilling tower and drilling rod. The inner platform plunges into the water. Audio visual effects and mirrored walls in a 14 meter (42 foot ) high, cubic well imply being at the bottom of the sea. Materials and architecture are closely entwined.
The monolithic main building has an outer shell/casing of dark gray Barents Blue gneiss from Varanger. In some areas, such as the entrance and two staircases, the casing/shell has a wave like form, like a mountain scrubbed by glaciers.
The wave motif is a formal theme that is repeated in the glazed facade of the exhibition hall. Inside the gneiss shell/casing is a construction layer-black, speckled concrete black granite. The entire interior of the main building can be interpreted as a vast cave where the floors are ‘decks’ with wooden ceilings, while the flooring of the ground floor is black syenite.
The main building is organized around muraled core spaces that house secondary functions. The flooring of the exhibition hall is of black ‘Otta’ slate, found again in the base of the facade. The hall’s ceilings are alu zinc metal sheets.
Parts of the elevations facing the town core are in acid resistant stainless steel sheets suspended like a screen connected to a glass strip at floor level. The gray and black steel clad hall creates a neutral backdrop for exhibitions.
The foundation of one of the three steel cylindrical platforms gave in. This made it necessary to apply a series of unfortunate cross bracing which, hopefully, will be removed soon by redoing foundation work on one of the piles. The elevations of the cylinders are sheets of acid resistant stainless steel sheets with gray lacquered aluminum accents.
The Norwegian Petroleum Museum is the result of an open architectural competition held in 1992. The building was financed by the State, Stavanger municipality, Rogaland County, and private sponsors.