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Knut Hamsun Center

Steven Holl Architects

Knut Hamsun Center
By Yehuda Safran -
Schueco has participated in the project

On August 4th 2009, Norway celebrated the 150th birthday of Knut Hamsun with the inauguration of the Knut Hamsun Center in his home town of Hamarøy, north of the Arctic Circle not far from Lofoten. Designed by Steven Holl nearly 15 years ago, this tower clad in dark stained wood was the subject of intense public debate in the wake of half a century of troubled relations with a writer of great artistic talent but with controversial political views: Hamsun was a racist and convinced sympathizer with the Nazi cause. Ever since Plato called for the poets of the Republic to be banished if they failed to condone its political system, the West has been acutely aware of the terrible conflict between love for the works of a great poet with obnoxious political views. Ernst Junger and Ezra Pound are among the outstanding writers of the last century who, in completely different circumstances, are encumbered with comparable difficulties. Invited to submit a proposal for the project, Steven Holl was moved by Knut Hamsun’s novel “Hunger” (1890): “...despite my alienation from myself at that moment, and even though I was nothing but a battleground for invisible forces, I was aware of every detail of what was going around me. A big brown dog ran across the street, toward the trees and the Tivoli; it had a small collar made of Mexican silver. Farther up the street, a window on the first story opened and a girl with her sleeves rolled up leaned out and began polishing the panes on the outside. Nothing escaped my eyes. I was sharp and my brain was very much alive, everything poured in toward me. The women before me had two blue feathers in their hats, and plaid kerchiefs around their necks...”. Holl was captured by the surrealist quality of the prose. He certainly saw the 17 films made of Hamsun’s writings; he was particularly enamoured of Henning Carlsen’s film “Hunger”, (1966) that includes a scene of a girl polishing window panes on the outside. This episode was transcribed in...

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