In the Danish city of Aalborg lies Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg, a contemporary art museum that was originally designed by world-renowned Finnish architect Aalvar Aalto together with Elissa Aalto and Jean-Jacques Baruël. This week, the museum reopens after a thorough restoration led by Danish architect firm Erik Møller Arkitekter.
The museum rises against the hills like a Mesopotamian ziggurat structure. Built to a square plan with galleries organised on the ground level around the central exhibition area, the museum is well-known for its cubistic look. The building consists of an entrance hall, offices, a sculpture gallery, several sky-lit galleries and seven small display rooms.
On the occasion of its 40th anniversary in 2012, the museum received a large donation for the renovation and modernisation of the listed building. Together with the Danish architectural practice Transform, landscape architects GHB and engineering company Søren Jensen, Erik Møller Arkitekter have refurbished a total of 6,000 square metres, while 317 tons of Italian marble have also been replaced at the museum.
In addition to the replacement of the marble both on the outside and the inside of the building, the restoration includes a new exhibition hall, new family and teaching rooms, and a new café and shop, plus a fully restored sculpture park with a new terrace. The Museum of Modern Art Aalborg has long been termed as a masterpiece within Nordic lyric modernism and is Aalto’s only museum building outside of Finland, thus extensive effort has been put into its restoration.
The work followed an architectural vision from Erik Møller Arkitekter. The vision was to reuse as much of the existing building as possible. In other words, to achieve a new and well-functioning museum placed within the museum’s existing physical surroundings. According to the architects, this vision yields four big advantages: it is cheaper to reuse the existing building structure; it is a sustainable solution to reuse materials; the museum’s exhibitions can be placed in immediate proximity to each other and finally, a minimal extension will leave the listed house as close to originally intended by Aalto and Baruël as possible.
“Our aim with the proposal was to maintain Aalto and Baruël’s architectural vision for the house – both the interior and the exterior. So wherever it was possible we have maintained or reused all the original surfaces and details. We have been very determined that the update should pay tribute to as well as maintain the architectonic motives and means from the original house,” says Lars Bendrup, Architect and Director at Transform.
According to the museum, the goal of the restoration is to give visitors an even better and more solid museum experience. However, it is not only the physical surroundings that have been renewed – the same has occurred with many of the different offerings from Kunsten, making the museum better for everyone, and allowing the museum to now provide everything from talks and concerts to family workshops and yoga.
Having being closed for restoration since 1 June 2014, the re-opening of the museum is scheduled for 23 January 2016, when a special exhibition by Pakistani contemporary artist Imran Qureshi begins. Qureshi’s Idea of Landscape includes two new art pieces that are tailor-made for Kunsten’s show. The exhibition ends on 24 April 2016.