Sverre Fehn: Futurist?

We stand on the last promontory of the centuries!… Why should we look back, when what we want is to break down the mysterious doors of the Impossible? Time and Space died yesterday. We already live in the absolute, because we have created eternal, omnipresent speed.
– Italian Futurist Manifesto(1)

The Hedmark Museum is smaller than I expect. It is simple yet also incredibly complex, full of contradictions: It is simultaneously delicate and barbaric. It is compelling. It is a space that I had not fully understand from 2D images.

The drawings do not convey how violent the architecture feels. In plan, the building barely touches the historic fabric, but visually the concrete crashes and zooms through it the old barn. The timber of the first floor and roof contrasts: a warm, cradle – like lid for the exhibition below. This creates palpable tension the between the volumes and voids.

Historical layers. 'Existing' fabric is depicted in grey

Historical layers.
‘Existing’ fabric is depicted in grey [Author’s own]

Upper Floor Plan. 'New' elements indicated in red. Ramps indicated by gradients.

Upper Floor Plan. ‘New’ elements indicated in red. Ramps indicated by gradients [Fehn, modified by author]

This tension reflects Fehn’s own feelings towards the act of designing a museum. He seemed to look upon a museum as a mausoleum for objects: reflecting mans need to deny death in a secular age by immortalising material things(2). He described his experience of the Hedmark Museum as his ‘confrontation with the Middle Ages’ (3).

Fehn perhaps shared the futurist view that looking backward, being referential to the vernacular promotes ‘a pensive immobility’. He stated that, ‘only with the manifestation of the present, you can make the past speak. If you try to run after it, you will never reach it’(4).

The Hedmark museum is in a way Fehn’s own struggle to develop a manifesto on how to meaningfully treat the past; a form of research by design.

Except in struggle, there is no more beauty. No work without an aggressive character can be a masterpiece. Poetry must be conceived as a violent attack on unknown forces, to reduce and prostrate them before man. (5)

(1) F. T. Marinetti translated in: Apollonio, Umbro, ed. Documents of 20th Century Art: Futurist Manifestos. Brain, Robert, R.W. Flint, J.C. Higgitt, and Caroline Tisdall, trans. New York: Viking Press, 1973. 19-24
(2) Fehn, Sverre: The Poetry of the Straight Line, translated by Joan Tate (Museum of Finnish Architecture, Helsinki, 1992)
(3) Sverre Fehn: Every Man is an Architect, Pritzker Prize Acceptance Speech, 1997
(4) Ibid.
(5) F. T. Marinetti translated in: Apollonio et al. 1973