A new place for gathering and a new landmark

Art and architecture come alive at Norway House

Clad in wood, the entrance to Norway House was designed to be reminiscent of a Norwegian stave church. Visitors lined the red carpet leading up to it, hoping to get a glance of Queen Sonja.

The Norwegian American

In September of 2021, staff, supporters, friends of Norway House in Minneapolis gathered there for the groundbreaking for a new 18,000-foot addition, including a new Innovation + Culture Center. At that time, we saw drawings and renderings created by Twin Cities architect Dewey Thorbeck, giving us a vision of what was to come. That vision has now become a reality.

After the grand opening ceremony on Sept. 15, Thorbeck and I found a quiet corner in the new center to talk about how the new space had come together. “It’s exciting,” said Thorbeck. “It’s meant to be a gathering place. For weddings, for receptions, for conferences.” While not everything has been completed, Thorbeck shared that it “turned out just the way he had planned it.”

The Sundet Family Aula in the new Innovation + Culture Center can hold up to 300 people and is a light, airy space designed for conferences and meetings, receptions, exhibitions, lectures, and concerts.

The Sundet Family Aula in the Innovation + Culture Center is an open, airy space with plenty of natural light painted in a soothing sky blue that complements the indigo blue that has become the signature color of Norway House. The oversized funky flower light fixtures in the main entrance hallway create a very warm and inviting feeling. And it is not to be forgotten that the space includes a new state-of-the-art kitchen to accommodate catered food service for events.

Large modern light fixtures in the entrance hall hang from the ceiling like friendly bursts of sunshine.

Water is a predominant theme with the Innovation + Culture Center, architecturally designed with an iconic “floating roof” supported by slender steel columns that extend up through round openings above the roof with tension cables—looking like sailing ships anchored in a harbor.

Wood is an important element with the new wood-clad entrance to Norway House, designed with a tower reminiscent of a Norwegian stave church. It provides a bridge to the older structure of Norway House, also painted in the iconic indigo blue.

And then there is the Twin Cities’ newest landmark, the pine cone sculpture “Seeds,” designed by sculpture artist Finn Eirik Modahl from Bergen, Norway. Modahl says that he is “very proud and honored that he was selected.” At 16.5 feet tall, the sculpture makes an impressive statement.

As Thorbeck commented, the sculpture provides a focal point in relation to Min­dekirken, which is located at the diagonal corner of the plaza. Thorsen traveled to Norway to meet with Modahl, where the sister sculpture “Konglo” to “Seeds” can be found on the island of Sotra outside of Bergen.

Artist Finn Eirik Modahl shakes hands with Queen Sonja, as Norway House Curator Max Stevenson and Executive Director Christina Carleton stand by.

But while “Konglo” was crafted in bronze, “Seeds” has been executed in a polished steel. “This is built to last,” said Modahl. The reflective quality of the material means that you never experience the sculpture in the same way, depending on the light and what is being reflected.

The pine cone sculpture “Seeds” is destined to become a new landmark in the Twin Cities.

You can see both what is around you and your own image in the sculpture, with a perspective that is constantly changing. Standing as an open sculpture, it is a magnet for children to run around and takes on a living quality.

“This sculpture builds toward the future,” said Modahl. “Always changing and evolving, the sculpture goes right into the core and idea of Norway House.”

And by the way, the red pine is the state tree of Minnesota.

Perhaps most impressive is that the new landmark sculpture was funded in full by private donations. Principal donors Ron and Kay Olsen are thrilled with its final execution and see “Seeds” as making “a statement of how the immigrants planted new seeds in a new land to thrive and grow.”

Photos by Coppersmith Photography

Also see Welcome home to the new Norway House in the November 4, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American.

This article originally appeared in the November 4, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American.

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Lori Ann Reinhall

Lori Ann Reinhall, editor-in-chief of The Norwegian American, is a multilingual journalist and cultural ambassador based in Seattle. She is the president of the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association, and she serves on the boards of several Nordic organizations.