I’ve seen the building many times in books, and each time I do, I find myself captivated by the Konsthall in Malmö, Sweden—an art museum, designed by architect Klas Anshelm, that opened in 1975. It’s hard not to notice its grandeur and even harder to stop thinking about it once the book is closed. Needless to say, I’ve been experiencing a growing interest in Nordic architecture, and the Konsthall has been definitive for capturing my attention. Images of the museum stir in me a special feeling of uplift, of light, and a sense of serenity. I perceived in the space a calm and peace, something that emerged from the pictures and attracted me to the building itself.
Last month (August 2016), while visiting friends in Copenhagen, I crossed the impressive Øresund Bridge that connects Denmark to Sweden, and found my way to Malmö to pay a visit to the building.
As I approached the structure for the first time, I found, somewhat strangely, that the construction had no particular impact on me from the outside, from the level of the streetscape. The building, situated in the city center, is simple, timid even, almost anonymous when approached on foot. Encased in concrete, aluminum, and glass, its form is rudimentary and reminded me of a factory more than a museum.
But then I went inside. In contrast to the exterior, the interior is rich in atmosphere. At once, upon entering the building’s large, single room, there is a definite sense of uplift—of the dreamy atmosphere conjured by light and color. This was the feeling I had from the photographs, and now they were made more immediate, more intense, by my first-person encounter.
Still inside, looking up, one sees that light is admitted softly down through the roof scape— constructed out of over 150 north-facing aluminum cupolas. The building’s infrastructure (mostly electrical and mechanical equipment) is effortlessly, unashamedly exposed and expertly integrated into the overall architecture of the interior.
The oak floor is simply nailed into the structure without much fuss over fit and finish. After time inside, and despite my more favorable experience there, the building remains more of a factory than a “polished” or “designed” gallery/museum.
Artists love such spaces, and for good reason, since the building, perhaps like the best of gallery spaces, has the capacity to avail itself to the presence of art. Rather than imposing a preconceived framework, the receptivity of the structure suggests that each new exhibition has the potential to be radically, dramatically different. Such space, as we find it at the Konsthall, is not limiting but instead provides a blank canvas and endless opportunities for art to be exhibited and enjoyed.