Peter Zumthor: Zinc Mine Museum Project, Norway

© Arne Espeland

For the past 12 years, the Pritzker laureate has been working on a cluster of museum buildings that lead to a disused zinc mine in a remote part of Norway. Peter Zumthor’s design draws attention to the site’s industrial heritage, while simultaneously making the area more accessible to increasing numbers of visitors.

Zinc Mine Museum Project technical information

It’s incredibly remote, it’s modest, and you can see that the people were poor […] The working conditions must have been terrible. You cannot stand upright in the tunnels, you have to go miles into the mountain, where it’s cold in summer and winter. So it gave us the idea to be modest in everything we did. Not poor, but modest.

– Peter Zumthor for Icon

Zinc Mine Museum Project Images
Peter Zumthor: Zinc Mine Museum Project, Norway

© Archive Peter Zumthor

Peter Zumthor: Zinc Mine Museum Project, Norway

© Archive Peter Zumthor

Zinc Mine Museum Project description

In a remote part of Norway, the zinc mines in Allmannajuvet in Sauda, Ryfylke were in operation from 1881 to 1899. The mining operations brought life to the village with as many as 168 employees and the export of ore on ships heading abroad. The operation was a forerunner of subsequent hydroelectric development and industrialisation in Sauda in Ryfylke. This project is the second installation along the country’s celebrated national tourist routes. The ‘allmannajuvet’ site will tell the story of the region’s zinc mines that were in operation between 1881 and 1899, a practice which employed as many as 168 workers from the nearby village. In an agreement with the norwegian public roads administration, sauda municipality assumes responsibility for site’s operations, upkeep and maintenance.

New service and information facilities are being constructed there in the framework of the National Tourist Route Ryfylke. In 2002, the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor was commissioned as part of Norway’s Tourist Route initiative to create a small museum and cafe at Almannajuvet, in the hope of attracting more tourists to the isolated region.

For safety reasons, Zumthor was forced to reposition two of the four timber buildings he planned to dot along the old mining path. In the interim, the Pritzker laureate was invited to build another structure at the northern tip of the Tourist Route, a cocoon-like memorial he completed on the Arctic island of Vardo – in collaboration with the artist Louise Bourgeois – to commemorate the 91 witches burned at the stake there in the 17th century.

Peter Zumthor: Zinc Mine Museum Project, Norway

© Arne Espeland

Peter Zumthor: Zinc Mine Museum Project, Norway

© Arne Espeland

Peter Zumthor: Zinc Mine Museum Project, Norway

© Arne Espeland

The notion of a permanent installation at the site of the mines was first proffered over ten years ago, before construction began in 2011. Peter Zumthor’s design draws attention to the site’s industrial heritage, while simultaneously making the area more accessible to increasing numbers of visitors.

The four structures will sit above and apart from the mine’s archaeological remains, but echo the ghosts of these buildings by alluding to early industrial architecture. Zumthor, who commissioned a history and plan of the site, told me that he wanted the buildings to look like they had always been there.

There’s this corner that doesn’t work or whatever. That’s the artistic process. It’s grounded to artists, and it should also be grounded to architects who work like building artists. This is not slowness, this is just working like an architect-artist. This is how I need to work and I need a client who understands it, and wants it, and knows that this can get on your nerves sometimes.

– Peter Zumthor for Icon

The typically restrained response sees an obtrusive service building clamped to an existing stone wall, while a neighboring café structure serves as a rest stop for walkers. The buildings proudly present their exposed structural framework, and are topped with corrugated roofs that harmonize with the rugged terrain. A car park and an additional stairway are also in place, while the exhibition hall – the museum itself – is under production in the nearby town of sauda and will be completed during 2016.

Zinc Mine Museum Project Gallery

More Works of Peter Zumthor | Peter Zumthor Bibliography and profile

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