The Hamsun Centre with the yellow glass balcony above the auditorium roof.

The Hamsun Centre with the yellow glass balcony above the auditorium roof.

Detail og the facade with timber balcony.

From the north facade.

The yellow glass balcony.

From the roof and the "bamboo garden".

One of Steven Holl‘s sketches.

From the interior with reflections of the brass cladding around the lift core.

From the interior. The brass-clad lift core to the left.

The stairway penetrates the facade.

Corner window, level 5.

Corner window in the reception, level 1.

Sketch of the site by Steven Holl.

Presteid village, Hamarøy.

The Hamsun Centre looking out over the fjord.


Knut Hamsun, Norway’s most inventive 20th-century writer, created new forms of expression in his first novel, Hunger. He went on to found a truly modern school of fiction with his works Pan, Mysteries, and Growth of the Soil. This centre dedicated to Hamsun is located above the Arctic Circle near the village of Presteid on Hamarøy near the farm where the writer grew up. The 2300 sq.m. centre includes exhibition areas, a library and reading room, a café, and an auditorium. The building is conceived as an archetypal and intensified compression of spirit in space and light, concretizing a Hamsun character in architectonic terms. The concept for the museum, “Building as a Body: Battleground of Invisible Forces,” is realized both inside and outside. Here, the wood exterior is punctuated by hidden impulses piercing through the surface: An ”empty violin case”-balcony has phenomenal sound properties, while a viewing balcony is like the ”girl with her sleeves rolled up polishing yellow panes.” Many other aspects of the building use the vernacular style as inspiration for reinterpretation. The stained black wood exterior skin is characteristic of the great Norwegian stave churches. On the roof garden, long grass alludes to traditional Norwegian sod roofs in a modern way. The rough white-painted concrete interiors are characterized by diagonal rays of light calculated to ricochet through the section on certain days of the year. These strange, surprising, and phenomenal experiences in space, perspective and light provide an inspiring frame for exhibitions.

Read Peter MacKeith's review of the Hamsun Centre here.