In January 1904, a devastating fire raged through the Norwegian seaport of Ålesund. After only 16 hours, it had destroyed 850 wooden houses, leaving more than ten thousand people homeless. Only 230 houses remained in Ålesund’s town centre after the fire was extinguished, and the townspeople set out to rebuild their city with the help of donations, passersby, and construction workers, who were in the middle of an economic depression and flocked to the town for jobs. By 1907, the town had been rebuilt in brick and modelled after a new style its citizens deemed befitting newly sovereign Norway entering the new century: Art Nouveau. Today, it is known internationally among the likes of Barcelona and Vienna as one of the world’s most concentrated Art Nouveau cities.
There are varied expressions of art nouveau throughout the city, from the German Jugendstil to the national romantic Norwegian Dragestil inspired by the stave churches of Norway’s Viking past. When strolling through the streets of Ålesund, one cannot help but be amazed by the myriad of turrets, spires, geometric windows, and intricate ornamentation ranging from animal and human faces to dragons and elaborate flowers.
Jugendstilsenteret (The Art Nouveau Centre)
Jugendstilsenteret is located in the old Swan Pharmacy from 1907 and is both a museum and a national centre of Art Nouveau. The centre offers insight into this style by means of authentic interiors and objects as well as temporary exhibitions.
The notion of Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art) is a core principle of Art Nouveau. Architecture, design, and art are integrated to give an overall impression of harmony. This is especially true of the Pharmacy Building, where every detail was meticulously planned by architect Hagbarth Schytte-Berg. See for yourself…
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