moesgaard museum - part of the landscape

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Uncover Denmark's new culture-historical museum and learn about the architectural challenges and solutions.


  • Moesgaard MuseumPart of the Landscape

  • TEXT Josefine Lykke Jensen, Marie Abildhauge Olesen, Morten Schjdt-Pedersen, Camilla Bengtsen

    PROOFREADERNatalie Jeffers

    LAYOUT Josefine Lykke Jensen, Marie Abildhauge Olesen, Morten Schjdt-Pedersen

    PHOTOSJan Kofod Winther (cover, 12-13, 20-21 top), Jens Lindhe (6, 16, 30, 34), Martin Schubert (4, 14, 18, 20, 22 bottom, 24 top)

    OTHER ILLUSTRATIONSHenning Larsen Architects

    INSTAGRAM PHOTOSAlexander Nariswair, Ana Magalhes Ilharco, Anne Hlene Kretzschmar Fink, Benedicte Vahle, Brian Kirkebaek, Catrine K. Reimann, Gertrud Hher Kiil Jrgensen, Gitte Johansen, Gustav Kjr Vad Nielsen, Jonathan Sol Serejo, Kathrine Bredlund Sren-sen, Keld Moesgaard, Kirsten Slling, Kristian Krath, Lars J. Lykke, Lea Korsgaard Nielsen, Line Ehlig Petersen, Lotte Hahn Kofoed, Lotte Lee Mller, Louise Haven Carlsen, Lwin Than Dar Oo, Malene Sby Srensen, Marianne Friborg, Martin Thim, Mathias Brock-dorff, Mikkel Rye Ottosen, Niels Kildahl, Nina Kampmann, Nina Maria Kiel Revsbech, Pernille Kirk Vestergaard, Rasmus Halm Truelsen, Rikke Olafson, Tina Lund, Ulla Daugaard, Waheed Mehr

  • Moesgaard MuseumPart of the Landscape

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    The architecture in itself supports the vision that this is more than a museum. It is a place of being.

    Jan Skamby Madsen Museum Director

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    A NATURAL CHALLENGEIn the green hills of Skde, the new Moesgaard Museum breaches the rolling green landscape. Jan Skamby Madsen, Director of the museum, explains the incentive and the vision for the prize-winning building.

    If you need to completely rethink the way you present things, you also need new surroundings. It is that simple, if you ask Jan Skamby Madsen, who has watched the development of the new Moesgaard Museum from his accession to the directorship in 1996 to the official opening in October 2014.

    Before the new museum became a reality, the culture-historical collection was exhibited in the nearby historic manor house, Moesgrd. But the inflexible surroundings of the historically listed manor house were limiting the pos-sibilities of the museum:

    Previously, you needed to be an amateur archaeologist to find our collection interesting, because it was simply exhi-bits displayed in endless rows. We wanted to reinvent ourselves, explains the Director.

    The days of being boxed-in had to come to an end and a new building, tailor-made for international exhibitions, was scheduled.

    The idea with the new building was to position museum visitors at eye level with the archaeologists who dug out

    the artefacts on displayto give visitors a sense of the excitement of discovery. Instead of just passing by row upon row of display cases that keep the objects at a di-stance, visitors should feel they are a part of the excavation.

    It was therefore with great expectations that Jan Skamby Madsen looked forward to the new museum, but the Di-rector also had great concerns about placing an enormous building in the beautiful landscape south of Aarhus.

    It was essential to us that we got a spacious building with the opportunity to explore new ways of communica-ting the past, but, at the same time, we wanted the buil-ding to be fitted well into the landscape. What troubled us the most was, how we could build big in these beautiful hills without destroying the natural surroundings. We were very uneasy about this, because we love this place so much.

    Henning Larsen Architects proposal convinced the ma-nagement of the museum that the challenge could be resolved, and so began the construction of the new Moes-gaard Museum.

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    New Moesgaard MuseumBuilding Site

    Bay ofAarhus

    Old Manor of Moesgaard Museum

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    TeamSkde Hills

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    PART OF THE LANDSCAPEAppearing as part of the landscape, the new museum building rises above the historic landscape. Inspired by the process of archaeological excavation, the building gradually reveals its exhibitions in several underground levels.

    Moesgaard Museum has been designed as an integrated landscape feature, set into and rising from the culturally historic landscape of Skde. The roof of the museum rises from the ground, creating a new feature in the hilly landscape. The raised end is enclosed in large glass sections, which offer views into the museum and invite visitors into the underground world, where the treasu-res of the past are displayed.

    The sloping grassy roof is publicly accessible around the clock all year long as an outdoor recreation area for citizens and visitors. From the top of the roof about 90 meters above sea level there is a stunning view of the surrounding landscape and the Bay of Aarhus. The new vantage point increases the attraction value in the area, which has long been a popular excursion spot for the citi-zens of Aarhus.

    It is important that the museum does not subtract anything from the area but adds new amenity values. By making the roof accessible, still, the area around Moesga-ard can be used for picnics, runs, or as a giant toboggan hill during the winter, architect and project manager Niels Edeltoft from Henning Larsen Architects, points out.

    Underneath the lifted blanket of grass buzzes the internal activity of the museum. The first space is a grand foyer which connects the activities of the museum and provides visitors with a quick visual overview of the building. Ser-vice functions, such as ticket sales, a museum gift shop and a caf, are located here as well.

    The large and bright foyer stretches vertically, spanning several floors. The levels of the museum are physically connected by a central staircase, dotted with small displays, that follows the rising terrain. From the foyer, visitors can access a large rooftop terrace, which can be used for outdoor caf service, open-air concerts or ornitho-logical studies when the birds of the forests of Moesgaard fly south.

    The foyer is a generous space that visitors can enjoy wit-hout having to buy a ticket for the museum exhibitions. It creates life in the building and the overall impression of a pleasant and accommodating building. Here you can take a break from the controlled environment of the exhibitions, enjoy the horizon and take in the daylight, Mr. Edeltoft continues.

    With its many split levels, the museum is inspired by the excavations of archaeologists, gradually unveiling layers of history. The gesture of split levels recurs in the permanent exhibition space, which is also the largest. Each exhibition room is complemented by a sunny break room, where visitors can relax in soft furniture and enjoy the view of the landscape.

    We have found a good balance, Mr. Edeltoft sums up, in which the daylight contributes to a comfortable and beautiful, spacious experience while the large roof surface towards the south keeps direct light and heat out of the building, thereby reducing the need for additional cooling. Moesgaard Museum is also an organic building.

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    DECEMBER 2011The topping-out ceremony for the new Moesgaard Museum took place in January 2011. Afterwards, the excavation and movement of 120,000 m earth, the driving down of sheet piles and the pile foundation in the Northern part of the building plot started. In August 2011, the foundation is by and large completed.

    In the fall of 2011, the construction of the northern part of the building began. In-situ concrete with white cement, visible taper holes, and a smooth surface for the many walls was chosen.

    JULY 2011

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    JUNE 2014JUNE 2012During the summer of 2012, the shape of the building rises to 21 metres above terrain. The 12 meter long stern ele-ments with a weight of 30 tons begin to draw the building in the landscape. In total, 9,500 m concrete and 1,200 tons of metal sheathing have been used in the construction.

    The building was handed over to Moesgaard Museum on September 6. Shortly after, the first employees moved into the building. Moesgaard Museum was officially inaugurated by Her Majesty Margrethe II, Queen of Denmark on October 10, 2014.

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    The new Moesgaard Museum is much more than a monument of culture- historical treasures of the past. It is a multifunctional house of culture and knowledge that will benefit museum guests, students and scientists.

    Niels EdeltoftProject Manager, Henning Larsen Architects

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    It was about creating the opportunity to facilitate our knowledge in a way that is interesting to children, parents, and grandparents. There should be something for everyone in spite of their prerequisites.Jan Skamby Madsen Museum Director

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    Henning Larsen Architects has designed a wide range of solutions for the new Moesgaard Museum. This includes customised design of the lobby, caf, museum shop, cloakroom and reception andformulating a clear visual identity. This alignment of graphic, interior and architectural design uni-tes the museums exterior and interior, and creates a total museum experience.

    The starting point for the interior design lay in the sy-nergy between architecture, landscape and museum iden-tity. In all projects we aim to align context, architecture and interior design, in order to arrive at a holistic solution, explains Design Manager Christian Andresen of Henning Larsen Architects.

    Moesgaard Museum is a spacious building, and a natural challenge has therefore been to adjust the overall expe-rience to a human scale. We have sought to reign in the spaciousne


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