Located at Kistefos Sculpture Park in Jevnaker, about an hour’s drive north of Oslo, the new project by Copenhagen, New York and London-based architectural practice Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), the firm’s first in Norway, has nothing to be jealous of the artworks that dot the park’s idyllic landscape of rolling woodland. Part architecture, part sculpture, part infrastructure, The Twist is a gallery that functions as a bridge that takes the form of a sculpture. Shaped as an elongated rectangular block that has been twisted at its centre, the building uncannily spans the Randselva River, providing 1,000 square metres of gallery space, and completing a culture walk around the property. Monumental in size yet respectful of its natural surroundings, The Twist proudly stands amongst the park’s eclectic collection of works created by esteemed artists such as Anish Kapoor, Fernando Bottero, Marc Quinn and Yayoi Kusama.
Built around a historical wood pulp mill, which now houses a museum of Norway’s early days of industrialization, Kistefos Sculpture Park is the brainchild of Norwegian businessman and art collector Christen Sveaas, the grandson of the mill’s founder. Since opening its doors to the public in 1999, Kistefos has since been expanding its collection of site-specific works by Norwegian and international artists. When a competition was announced 8 years ago for the design of a building in which to house temporary exhibitions, BIG approached the brief both as an architectural and an artistic challenge whilst also conceiving it as an integral part of the overall visitor experience. “As a bridge, it reconfigures the sculpture park turning the journey through the park into a continuous loop,” Bjarke Ingels, Founding Partner & Creative Director of BIG, explains, while, as an inhabitable sculpture, the new building not only doubles Kistefos’ indoor exhibition space, it also “becomes another sculpture among the sculptures in the park”.
Clad in a striated aluminium shell, the building’s gleaming rectilinear volume is warped at a 90 degree angle in a feat of ingenious engineering. Its curvaceous shape belies the utter lack of any curved element, as the twisting form has been created by a series of straight 40cm wide aluminium panels arranged like a stack of books. The same rationale is applied in the interior, where white painted fir slats clad the floor, wall and ceiling that coalesce into a uniform envelope, creating an ideal backdrop for showcasing artworks. “Wherever you look, you see arches and curves, Fibonacci spirals and saddle shapes, but when you look closer you realize that everything is created from straight lines” says Bjarke Ingels.
The building’s warped volume creates two distinct spaces: a windowless, vertical gallery on the south side and a naturally lit, horizontal gallery on the north end where a full-height glass wall offers panoramic views of the river and the pulp mill upstream, while towards the middle of the building, the building gradually tapers upwards to become a skylight. In between, connecting the two galleries, visitors pass through an uncanny space where the walls turn into the ceiling and the floor merges with the walls in what feels like walking through a camera shutter. On the north embankment, a glass stairway leads down to the museum’s restrooms on the lower level where another full-width glass wall brings them even closer to the river below – with the sight of the flowing water providing a fitting backdrop.
“Hodgkin and Creed - Inside Out”, The Twist’s inaugural exhibition running until November 19, 2019, pairs the works of the late British painter Howard Hodgkin with the British conceptual artist and musician Martin Creed. Although to a certain extent different in mediums – Hodgkin painted abstracted, boldly coloured canvases whereas Creed creates minimalist, conceptual works with a range of materials, from cacti to iron girders – the two artists are united in their conviction that art offers a framework through which we can express and come to terms with our complex emotional lives. Exhibiting their work side by side allows similarities such as their shared preoccupation with a concise and repetitive visual language to emerge, but also invites visitors to reconsider Hodgkin's oeuvre in the context of a contemporary art practice and to discover, in Creed’s work, emotional aspects that are often overlooked. The rapport between the two artists’ work is further forged by the architecture of the gallery space whose warped spatiality merges their artworks into a singular experience.