above: view through the negative volume that links the tier-like floors. through a window, light ripples across painted board-form concrete to create an effect based on light and value, not material hue.
What is more fitting for a brilliant, yet controversial figure than to have a museum in his memory that also contorts in tension, its design so to dividing opinion. My visit to the Knut Hamsun Center in Hamarøy , by Stephen Holl completed in 2004 was a noted break in my study of Vernacular-inspired architecture. Located north of the Arctic Circle, the buildings volume provides a space to interpret the rise of not just modern-literature, but also the loss of a romantic world that comes with modernization itself. The now-dormant bucolic landscape pokes through a clerestory of windows; juxtaposing expressive formal shifts with the head-down practicality of illiterate farmers.
It is a jarring break in the cadence of the soft hills and timber buildings. For all of its being out of place, the building is also invaluable to an historic understanding of place. Without its unrepentant and modern posturing, the region that shaped one of the 20th centuries greatest authors might now suffer from an overly-romantically type of Potemkinism. The aim of the structure is not lionize Hamsun's view or mimic his reality, but to provide a spatial lens with which to interpret it.
Its tectonic order, defined by load-bearing concrete is loosely solid and unlike Sverre Fehn's use of the material. In Fehn's notable museums, the use of concrete make the rooves in their weight feel like a piece of the earth that has been lifted. Holl's enclosure and walls are certainly of the same mass, but not nearly as weighty. The building is solidly sterometric (the stacking of stone), yet so too posses a materialization of mass ussually only seen in tectonic (light framework) orders. Frampton writes on the ontological meaning and implication of these modes that,
"Framework tends towards the aerial and dematerialization of mass, where as the mass form is telluric, embedding itself deeper into the earth. One tends towards the light and the other towards the dark. These gravitational opposites...may be said to symbolize the two cosmological opposites to which they aspire; the sky and earth."