Ålesund: Norway’s Art Nouveau City
ÅLESUND, Norway—From tragic circumstances, a confluence of lucky events led to the creation of one of Norway’s landmark art cities.
By Susan James – The Epoch Times
At the turn of the 20th century, Ålesund was prosperous and growing. Strategically located on seven islands along the southwest Norwegian coast, Ålesund was a town of wooden buildings whose merchants had grown rich in the fishing trade.
On a winter’s night in late January 1904, a gale-force storm struck the area. One of Ålesund’s wooden houses caught fire, and by morning the town was a smoking ruin, its 11,000 citizens left homeless.
In 1904, the country was suffering from heavy unemployment so an army of construction workers appeared in Ålesund looking for jobs. Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, infatuated with the country he had visited many times, sent several ships carrying men and materials to help rebuild the beleaguered town.
Fortunately, Ålesund’s wealthy merchants could pay for the best and decided to forego cheaper, traditional, but flammable wood and rebuild their town in brick and stone.
Fifty Norwegian architects and master builders who had trained in England and Germany and who were fluent in the new architectural style of Art Nouveau, or Jugendstil, arrived to offer their services.
The Norwegian government made the resurrection of Ålesund a prime goal and, within three years, from the ashes of the 1904 fire, arose a re-imagined urban landscape on the edge of sea, now called “Europe’s most complete Art Nouveau city.”