Edvard Munch

I forgot to post these of Munch. I was trying to track the changes in the way Munch portrayed himself.

As he was in 1881/2:-





The Munch Museum (1)

I’m rather relieved that I hadn’t read Oliver Wainwright’s excellent, but possibly over-critical review of the new Munch Museum, before I had written mine for the Burlington Magazine (not out for a month at least). I realise I was maybe influenced by the pleasures of there being so much exhibition space, and didn’t see its architectural form as one of civic surveillance, which once one has viewed it that way is hard to escape. I don’t think it will stop the museum being very popular: great artist, good location, so much to see, different ways of interpreting him; certainly well worth the trip to Oslo.



London Making Now

We went to see a small exhibition at the entrance of the Museum.of London about the way designers are influenced by their envirnonment:- Claire Partington whose work is influenced by porcelain figures in the V&A:-

James Shaw, who makes neo-baroque pots from extruded plastic:-

Adi Toch, who makes brass vessels:-



The Cheese Barge

I had a somewhat idiosyncratic lunch because I had wanted to see a recent work by the architect, Adam Richards, who has designed a cheese barge on Paddington Basin as a homage to the Electa bookshop – a book ship – in the Giardini in Venice designed by Michael Wilford and Jim Stirling in 1989. It works well as a barge:-

And then I had the pleasure of a plate of cheese:-


The Custom House (4)

I have spent part of the day cogitating as to what would be the best possible use of the Custom House if the City is not going to allow it to be turned into a luxury hotel.

It happens to coincide with my visit yesterday to the new Oslo Public Library which was absolutely packed with people at 9 o’clock in the morning who were using the library not as somewhere to read books, but as somewhere to work in a good public environment, rather than closeted in a small claustrophobic environment at home.

This echoes what has happened at the British Library where the public spaces are packed with people using the desks and café, but not the actual library facilities.

So, my suggestion for the Custom House is that it should be used to support the new world of work which it happens is not dissimilar from the late seventeenth century coffee house: privatised and individualised, not dragooned by organisations; highly sociable; fuelled by coffee. It would mean that the public rooms would find a new use, but one appropriate to the City.


The Custom House (3)

Rather fascinatingly, the Bermuda-based owners of the scheme to develop the historic Custom House as (another) luxury hotel have withdrawn their proposals before going to the City’s planning committee. This is presumably because they had been told that they would be turned down, so they are no doubt adapting the plans to make them more acceptable.

I hope this might indicate a change of heart on the part of the City post-COVID, acknowledging that a programme of aggressive new development may not, after all, be the best strategy to retain the City’s prestige as a great financial centre and it may, instead, require re-thinking in relation to changing patterns of work. My own view is that it would be worth them re-thinking the area round the Tower, including the Custom House; they should pay more attention to the surviving historic fabric; and they should think how to make the City a better environment to walk round, instead of trying to turn it into Hong Kong.

Remember the hedge fund managers long ago moved out. Many banks went to Canary Wharf. They can’t want the City to become an environment of empty tower blocks.



Oslo (3)

As well as spending a great deal of time enjoying and exploring the different floors of the new Munch Museum (you will have to await my full verdict for the December issue of the Burlington Magazine), I also explored more of the old town.

I walked past what I think is the Cental Post Office building in Tollbugata, but can’t find much about its history other than the fact that construction began in 1906, was completed in 1924 and it ceased to be a post office in 2004:-

The Magistrat Gaarden:-

What seem to be barracks:-

And out on the coast the Akershus Fortress, a medieval palace converted into a seventeenth-century palace:-


Oslo (2)

I thought I would begin by exploring the new parts of the City which are being constructed very elaborately after the closure of the working docks.

There is a huge and very elaborate new public library, the Deichman Library, opened in June 2020, not perhaps very prepossessing from outside, but spectacularly spacious inside, with escalators taking one upwards, more public working space than somewhere for books:-

Next, I walked up the roof of Snøhetta’s opera house, which seems to have been popular and successful, opened in 2008, a bit like a public ski slope:-

Then, the new Munch museum looms into view, bending its top, as if subservient to the Snøhetta building. I think I will reserve judgment on it until I have seen more of it. It’s had a pretty troubled history, the product of a competition in 2008, nearly axed in 2011, designed by Juan Herreros, a Spanish architect, in an appropriately industrial style, opening tomorrow:-

It gave me an irresistible urge to go and see the old Munch Museum, now closed, which opened in 1963 next door to the botanical gardens. I can’t say I mourn its closure. It doesn’t look to me to have had a great deal to recommend it – a low-rise, single story which opened in 1963. But at least I was able to explore the surrounding area of Tøyen and walk through the gardens:-