Bjart Mohr – An Era

Bjart Mohr is a Norwegian architect born in Oslo on November 25, 1925. He studied in Oslo’s State Architectural Course in 1951. Although he maintained a solo practice office during his career, his production is large and prolific. Mohr is an interesting Norwegian architect quite unknown despite his surprisingly wide work and consistently of high quality. We know little about him but his talent is spread around Norway, particularly in the nearby of Oslo.

His wife, Anne-Marie Backer Mohr, was a creative woman and a well recognized ceramist. She was the daughter of Lars Backer, a well-known Norwegian architect, who was a clear influence for Mohr.

Standing out among his projects are some town halls (Oppegård, Ås, Lørenskog and Vestby), two galleries (Holmsbu Billedgaleri and Vinje Biletgalleri) and his own house in Oslo.

TOWN HALLS. Norway’s economy expansion in the 50’s and 60’s decades led to building state and governmental services. The institutional buildings that Mohr designed during the late 70s were all town halls in the nearby of Oslo, south of the country. They all share a functional design with strong and relevant concrete structure.

In 1961 the committee of Ås decided to build an administration and social centre for the city and they appointed Mohr as the architect to build the new town hall. The town hall design consists of concrete walls painted off white, closing a patio in front of the old bank and municipal local.

Lørenskog’s municipality project for the new town hall required a compact design, taking into account environmental qualities and open to a future extension. Architecture firms were invited to present their proposals, and Mohr’s was approved unanimously in 1970.

The Oppegård Town Hall stands out for the pyramidal shape of its volume. It has four floors and one floor underground. Every floor has a narrow balcony all around the building, except for the ground floor. The design is the result of a functional analysis, giving an organized form to the characteristics that this kind of building requires.

GALLERIES. His most awarded and attractive projects are two small-scale galleries: Holmsbu (1971-81) and Vinje (1991), both showing art work of Henrik Sørensen and other artists.

In 1971 the Holmsbu Picture Gallery received the Houens Foundation Award, the most important architecture award in Norway. The initiative to build an image gallery came from Sørensen’s son in 1962, shortly after the death of his father. The building was financed with the sale of some of Sørensen works. The gallery has a sober and careful design with simple volumes and natural materials. In the façade, red granite was used straight from the site and the construction was done completely without the use of machines. The nature around was left untouched; the building really reflects this respect and harmony with nature.

The design of Vinje Gallery is also composed by attached heavy volumes and built with local rock in an impressive landscape.

MOHR’S HOUSE. As many architects do, Bjart Mohr designed his own house.

The property belonged to Mohr’s mother in law. The house is located in Slemdal, and built on the forest hillside of Holmenkollåsen. When Holmenjollbaan was built in 1898, the area connected by public transport to the city of Oslo and became attractive residential neighborhood. The German ambassador acquired twenty-one plots and built a manor house where he lived. Ole Mustad bought the house in 1919 and he chose Arnestein Arneberg to renovate the house.  His assistant Lars Backer did the last one. In 1921, Backer married one of the six daughters of Ole Mustad, Elsa. The little daughter of the couple, Anne Marie, also married an architect called Bjart Mohr. When Ole Mustad died in 1954, the plot was divided for the eight grandsons and Marie and Bjart received the south part of the property.

Bjart Mohr designed his own house in 1971. The house in Heyerdahlsvei 6 is a composition of rectangular volumes with flat roof that extend in an east-west direction. The spine of the house holds the corridor and rooms, while the common areas and an indoor pool face the south: the views to the garden and further away, the fjord. In the basement, there is the workshop for Anne Marie. The building is cultivated and the interior refined with comfortable and well-lightened spaces. The house has grown together with a leafy vegetation that has appropriated the dark brown wood panels of the façade. This house is the result of the architectural trajectory of the architect, in its greatest expression.

There is very little information about Bjart Mohr, but he was an important player in the Norwegian architecture in the 70s. His projects are varied and experimental. We can tell by looking at his own house that Mohr was influenced by the Japanese culture and architecture, as some other important Norwegian architects such as Fehn and Korsmo.

Most of his works are placed in the nearby of Oslo, and range from public buildings to a one-family dwellings. His work articulates the interjection between nature, architecture, place and materials.