(23.9.2009 - 29.11.2009)

Sverre Fehn (1924–2009) is the most remarkable architect of Norway and one of the great names of Nordic architecture. Fehn'sarchitectural idiom is modern but connects with the landscape and observes history. His poetic yet at the same time powerful architecture is based on structure, which to him is a medium of aesthetic expression.

I operate fairly rationally. The site means much to me, the house's relationship to the landscape. In the reality that is Norway; standing there on the ground one hasn't much else to realize one's thoughts in relation to other than nature. The intellectual world meets the landscape, and in the ensuing duel beauty is born. One mustn't be sentimental on this point; one mustn't begin to make a mess of the landscape. The more precise you can be, the more ruthlessly you can work out this meeting, the more powerful the accentuation of nature becomes, and the more intensely your architectural narrative comes into view. (SF, Scala 23/1990)

In the early phase of Fehn's career, his older Norwegian colleague Arne Korsmo was a figure very important to him. Also crucial to his later development were his stay in Morocco in 1952–53 and subsequent work in the office of the prominent French architect Jean Prouvé in Paris.

The Norwegian Pavilion in the Brussels World Fair in 1958 brought international fame to the young architect. Interesting in the Finnish aspect is another well-known exhibition space, the joint Nordic Pavilion of Finland, Norway and Sweden built for the Venice Biennale in 1962. It allows trees to grow through the building, and its high roof structure filters light so it assumes a northern softness. Though these two important buildings are in different parts of Europe, most of Fehn's works are in Norway.

The museums designed by Fehn are situated in old structures as well as new buildings. The Hedmark Museum (Hamar 1969), for instance, is fitted in the ruins of an ancient bishop's fortress. Fehn's last work, Norway's National Museum – Architecture (Oslo 2008) comprises restored buildings and a pavilion-like extension. His new museum buildings include the Norwegian Glacier Museum (Fjærland 1991/07), located between mountains at the foot of Europe's largest glacier.

Fehn's private houses are intimate as well as imposing. Many clients were his friends, and besides varying landscape conditions, his close relationship with different families has produced individual homes.

Fehn became also known as an exhibition designer and participated with success in several architectural competitions. In addition to his design work, Fehn taught at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design in 1975–95.

Sverre Fehn was awarded the world's highest architectural recognition, the Pritzker Prize, in 1997. He was honorary member of the Finnish Association of Architects SAFA from 1992. His work has been previously shown in Finland in 1992 in the Five Masters of the North exhibition at the Museum of Finnish Architecture.

The exhibition has been produced by the Norwegian National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design and curated by Eva Madshus. Sverre Fehn himself has selected the works on display. The exhibition has been previously shown in Oslo in spring 2008, Venice in autumn 2008 and Stockholm in early 2009.

See also lectures on Scandinavian architecture.

The presentation has been supported by Embassy of Norway in Finland and Kulturfonden för Finland och Norge.

Portrait of Sverre Fehn (1924–2009).
Photo: Stina Glømmi
Ivar Aasen Centre, Ørsta, 2000.
Photo: Jiri Havran
Villa Busk, Bamble, 1990.
Photo: Jiri Havran
The Nordic Pavilion, Venice, 1962.
Photo: Ferruzzi