Norway’s Kistefos Museum has the “Twist”

The Danish architecture firm BIG has a real knack for spectacular design. Its recently constructed building “The Twist”, which opened in 2019 in the Sculpture Park of the Norwegian Kistefos Museum, fascinatingly bridges the gap between art and architecture – quite literally.

The grounds of the Kistefos Museum have been considered a great place for a day out for years. Around an hour’s drive from Oslo, interested visitors are drawn here by art exhibitions, a sculpture park and an historic industrial estate. Now, the Kistefos boasts another architectural highlight:

The new museum building “The Twist” opened in 2019. Designed by the multiple award-winning Danish firm BIG, it sits majestically in the middle of the forest. It is a structure that connects architecture and art, as well as the banks of the Randselva River spanned by the habitable bridge.

Ingenious bridge-building

“The Twist” itself has the appearance of a giant sculpture. Like a futuristic beam, twisted by 90 degrees around the middle. A bridge with two main entrances, across which visitors can complete their tour through the Sculpture Park. The twist in the building has made it possible to connect the wooded south bank on one side with the hilly area on the north bank of the river.

The Twist at Kistefos Museum
Fascinating interplay of form and light: “The Twist”, designed for Norway’s Kistefos Museum by the Danish architecture firm BIG. (Photo: Laurian Ghinitoiu)

At the south entrance, a 16 m-long aluminium-clad steel bridge leads into the lofty interior. The view toward the north bank is unobstructed. There, the entrance is formed by a 9 m-long footbridge. A glazed wall offers panoramic views of the Kistefos’s historic pulp mill and the river. The 1,000 m² of exhibition space will now be used to present contemporary art.

“The Twist” turns familiar setups on their head

Curvature of the windows divides the museum building into three separate areas illuminated by natural light: the north is characterized by a wide, naturally lit gallery with a panoramic view. The “intermediate space” is fitted with twisted skylights in the roof. And the southern section is home to an airy exhibition zone with artificial lighting.

The Twist at Kistefos Museum
“Twisted” dimensions inside the new Kistefos Museum. (Photo: Laurian Ghinitoiu)

The Twist at Kistefos Museum
The “twist” transforms what was just ceiling into wall and floor. (Photo: Laurian Ghinitoiu)

This concept in “The Twist” gives you the impression of walking through several different camera shutter speeds. And in the “intermediate space” – the actual “twist” itself – another amazing effect is manifest: the wall seems to become the ceiling, which in turn metamorphoses into floor and wall areas.

Kistefos: tradition & industrial design

The curved geometry of the museum consists of straight, 40 cm-wide aluminium panels and is constructed like a fanned-out stack of books. A similar principle is adopted for the interior, where the floor, walls and ceiling are clad in white-painted 8 cm-wide slats of fir.

The Twist at Kistefos Museum
The interior of the Kistefos Museum is characterized by white-painted wood. (Photo: Laurian Ghinitoiu)

The Twist at Kistefos Museum
Cool metallic shimmer: the outer skin of the “Twist”. (Photo: Laurian Ghinitoiu)

This design by architecture firm BIG builds a further bridge, between the exterior, a shimmering metallic reference to industrial buildings, and the interior that is dominated by the traditional Norwegian building material – wood.

Closely surrounded by nature

A glazed stairway leads down to the lower level on the north bank. There, the aluminium skin of the building becomes the ceiling. Another glazed wall offers visitors unobstructed views of the river and the idyllic countryside in which the museum is set.

The Twist at Kistefos Museum
The new museum building “The Twist” connects the two banks of the Kistefos Sculpture Park. (Photo: Laurian Ghinitoiu)

“The Twist” becomes an elegant, architecturally intriguing extension of the Kistefos Sculpture Park. The museum itself was founded by businessman and art collector Christen Sveeas in 1996.

Works by many Norwegian and international artists, such as Yayoi Kusuma, Jeppe Hein, Tony Cragg and Anish Kapoor, can be found here dotted around the remnants of a pulp factory built in 1889.

The Twist at Kistefos Museum
Functional building and work of art in one: “The Twist” integrates perfectly into the Sculpture Park of the Kistefos Museum. (Photo: Laurian Ghinitoiu)

Bjakre Ingels’ BIG architecture studio is famous for its visionary concepts. BIG was commissioned by Christen Sveeas to design the new museum building in 2011. The decision as to where within the idyllic grounds the museum should be situated was left to the renowned Copenhagen architect, Ingels.

Museum building as a work of art

The decision to design a building with the dual function of a bridge and museum has paid off. With its unusual, innovative architecture, “The Twist” is a worthy venue for presenting large contemporary works – while being an unparalleled work of art in its own right.

The inaugural exhibition “Hodgkin and Creed – Inside Out” was on show until mid-November 2019, after which the Kistefos Museum closed for the winter.

Text: Elisabeth Schneyder
Translation: Rosemary Bridger-Lippe
Photos: Laurian-Ghinitoiu / BIG