A successful Detour through Guggenheim

Model of the Memorial to the Burning of Witches in the Finnmark, Varanger, Norway. A collaboration between Peter Zumthor and Louise Bourgeois.

Model of the Memorial to the Burning of Witches in the Finnmark, Varanger, Norway. A collaboration between Peter Zumthor and Louise Bourgeois.

“Architecture is about connecting to the local history” said Peter Zumthor at The Symposium DETOUR: Art, Architecture, Cities and Landscapes at Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on Jan. 19, marking the end of the DETOUR exhibition, on display at Parsons The New School for Design since December 2009.

The symposium kicked off with a series of presentations and a panel debate about art and architecture in cities and landscapes. DETOUR is about innovative design and architecture in a spectacular natural landscape, but just as much about connecting to the local stories and characteristics. The sold-out event attracted close to 400 patrons and featured world renowned architect Peter Zumthor, Jerry Gorovoy from Louise Bourgeois Studio, Chief Curator Nancy Spector and David van der Leer from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, architects Craig Dykers, Nader Tehrani, Einar Jarmund and Head of the Arts Council for the Norwegian National Tourist Routes Project, Svein Rønning.

DETOUR is an exhibition documenting spectacular architecture and design along 18 National Tourist Routes in Norway. Detour features film, photography and architectural models of these interventions in the landscape. So far close to 200 innovative projects have been realized, ranging from stopping points, information centers, picnic areas, rest stops, and observation platforms; including works by architect Peter Zumthor, artists Louise Bourgeois, James Turrel, Mark Dion and Snøhetta architecture firm.

Zumthor gave a memorable introduction to his firm’s involvement with the DETOUR project, namely through their works with a Mine Museum at Almannajuvet, Sauda, Norway, and the The Memorial in Memory of the Victims of the Witch Trials, Varanger, Norway, in collaboration with Louise Bourgeois. “People’s stories is what connects history to the present” said Peter Zumthor on working with historical matters. Jerry Gorovoy explained that for Louise Bourgois, a memorial for burned witches was just as much about representing the current plight of many women. For Zumthor, local stories and the local populations knowledge about the local mine at Sauda was more important than any historical documents.

Challenging Conventions

What is the identity of the landscape? Asked Guggenheim architecture curator David van der Leer. Does architects create landscapes or are they inspired by them? DETOUR is all about challenging conventions and tell stories through concepts based on what characterizes the region, explained Svein Rønning. Architects Einar Jarmund followed up with an example from their work with Svalbard Science Center on the scenic arctic archipelago bearing the same name. “The design was based on Svalbard’s mining traditions and industrial history” said the Jarmund/Vigsnæs Architect. Craig Dykers and Snøhetta was inspired by unique Norwegian engineering expertise related to tunnel building when designing the Petter Dass Museum in Norway. Engineers cut right through a ridge to make room for the building. “In one way violating the landscape, but on the same time revealing the inner beauty of the rock” explained Craig Dykers.

Finding identity in cities and landscapes sometimes involve a hands off approach and absence of a master plan. Craig Dykers used their involvement in pavement project in Guatemala as an example of a project that evolves as local artists take ownership. The Norwegian Government was recognized for not having a regeneration master plan for Oslo harbor, but rather using the astonishing Opera House to inspire future development in the area.

As for the identity of the landscape? Identities are shaped by stories – stories told through people, landscapes, urban environments and history. As Peter Zumthor said about one of the locals he encountered on his field trip to Norway: “Whether the stories I’m told are historically accurate or not is of no relevance to me.”

Source: Royal Norwegian Embassy

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