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First look

Nissen Richards design permanent exhibition gallery for the National Library of Norway

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The thirty objects on display all represent key aspects of the country’s history, brought together for the first time in central Oslo

This new permanent exhibition, designed by Nissen Richards Studio at Norway’s Nasjonalbiblioteket, is entitled Opplyst, meaning ‘Enlightened’, refers to the concept of a display of objects which helped shape the country. 

The objects relate to political, social and creative breakthroughs and turning points that created the country’s sense of itself. They include a 12th-century psalter; Magnus Lagabotes Landslov, the Norwegian equivalent of the Magna Carta; a Grieg piano concerto; a letter from explorer Roald Amundsen from the South Pole and a photo negative documenting the deportation of Norwegian Jews to Auschwitz in 1942.

1 opplyst, the national library of norway

1 opplyst, the national library of norway

Source: Gareth Gardner

Nissen Richards Studio’s exhibition design with lighting by Studio ZNA, are together intended to create an intense immersion into Norway’s history.

The objects are displayed in a family of five different showcase types used – with subtly-individualised adaptations - created out of black, powder-coated metal, with thin-profile legs.

Timber forms a major part of the materials palette.The rear feature wall, designed to appear like a series of abstracted drawers, as well as the floor, are both made up of block-end larch, which has been sanded, oiled and stained with black and white pigments and built by hand, creating the effect of subtly-different charcoal-grey tones. The new raised floor is also highly functional, hiding all the services and allowing cabling to run up the legs of the showcases. The design treatment of the two side walls, which feature grooved etchings, are the result of experimentation using a precision-cutting CMC process, the patterned textural finish applied to pigmented Valcromat. A sense of movement in the gallery has been added to by a lightwash that moves through the space from cool to warm, created by lighting designers Studio ZNA.

Nissen Richards Studio also undertook all the project’s graphics, including interpretation panels and layouts.

2 opplyst means 'enlightened' and refers to 30 objects that shaped the nation

2 opplyst means ‘enlightened’ and refers to 30 objects that shaped the nation

Source: Gareth Gardner

Architect’s view

Our initial concept was for the chosen objects to be floating, with the showcases rendered almost invisible. Whilst light and darkness were metaphors for the exhibition, including the concept of knowledge arising like light out of the darkness, they also became structuring devices’  ‘we also set out to make something of lasting quality, with a materiality that spoke clearly of the ideas surrounding the project. We want visitors to step over the threshold and discover a magical new space.

The back wall of the new space is effectively an abstracted version of the drawers that hold the full set of historical objects, designed with timber blocks to form a surface of varying 3D depth. We liked the idea of creating a room that gradually shifts over time – a darkness that the objects sit within that is an ‘active darkness’, full of content and textures.

Pippa Nissen, director, Nissen Richards Studio 

13 wall mounted displays

13 wall mounted displays

Source: Gareth Gardner

Client’s view

The exhibition Opplyst. Glimt fra en kulturhistorie (full English title: Enlightened. Glimpses of a Norwegian Cultural History) will be an important tool to attract people to visit the Library and to offer an insight into the development of the Norwegian culture. This exhibition brings a selection of unique, spectacular and significant pieces of Norwegian cultural history out from the shadows of the archives and into the spotlight. These items represent particular moments in our shared history, telling of great breakthroughs, creative masterpieces and crucial events that have shaped our capacity for expression and our nation itself.

Marte-Kine Sandengen, Head of Exhibitions, The National Library of Norway

A1967 aj drawings plan

A1967 aj drawings plan

Source: Gareth Gardner

Gallery plan

Project data

Start on site February 2019
Completion date February 2020
Gross internal floor area 155 sqm
Construction cost Undisclosed
Architect Nissen Richards Studio
Lighting designer Studio ZNA
AV consultant Sysco
Main contractor Tomrer Petter Halvorsen
Contractor of specialist wall finishes Factory Settings
Graphics contractor Displayways
Specialist showcases Meyvaert
Design life 25 Years

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