Opened last week in the Bjørvik district of Oslo, the new Munch Museum (Munchmuseet) by Spanish architecture firm Estudio Herreros positions a striking new landmark along the Akerselva river. Dedicated to the life and work of Edvard Munch, the building was conceived by the architects as a “vertical museum,” with its many exhibition galleries spread across 11 halls (in addition to a gift shop and café on the lobby level and a restaurant, event space and rooftop bar on the two uppermost floors, for a total of 13 storeys) and is home to more than 26,000 pieces by the celebrated Norwegian icon himself, along with works and collections by other artists.
Complementing the architecture, light-filled and crisp-white interiors and – of course – the artwork, is a new site-specific seating collection designed by Norway’s Andreas Engesvik and Jonas R Stokke and manufactured by Scandinavian urban furniture brand Vestre. After winning a national design competition in 2017, Engesvike and Stokke set about devising furniture that would provide the anticipated one-million visitors per year with the opportunity to sit and relax during their tour of the museum. “We discussed a lot back and forth and were challenged by the museum as a concept, and asked ourselves how a museum for Munch differs from, for example, a Goya or Picasso museum,” says Stokke of the years-long process. “We felt great reverence for the assignment and to develop a very good product, so we devoted a lot of time to the project.”
“Even if it’s a museum, things do not have to be uncomfortable,” continues Stokke, “[we] wanted visitors to be able to take a break and really rest.” Eschewing the predictable narrow wooden benches topped with thin leather cushions, the duo focused on ergonomics, crafting a cohesive collection of sofas and lounge chairs with shapely backs and sturdy frames that perfectly balance comfort with elegance.
Comprised of a simple yet stable steel base cloaked with layers of resilient steel mesh that adapts to the body, the seats are at once comfortable, inviting and tactile. “The design is very basic,” says Engesvik, “It has no secrets. If people understand what they see, they feel safe.”
Intended to last for generations – as all Vestre furniture is – the individual components that form each piece are welded together (rather than screwed), galvanized and then varnished, making them robust and hardy enough to withstand the wear and tear of the high-traffic environment. In fact, it even makes them suitable for use outdoors.
Equally as important as developing the seats themselves was formulating an appropriate colour palette. To that end, Engesvik and Stokke spent hours poring over and studying hundreds of Munch’s paintings before collaborating with Norwegian paint manufacturer Jotun to develope three unique colourways – named Skin, Hair and Night. The original hues reflect the designers’ personal interpretations of the artist’s paintings.
Rounding out the series – which was awarded the prestigious DOGA Award for Design and Architecture in March 2021 – are a backless version of the bench, as well as café tables and chairs, and optional injection-moulded seat cushions wrapped in luxe wool textiles.
Offering spots for “relaxing moments instead of short breaks,” the Munch Series is a natural and thoughtful addition that can be found throughout all levels of the museum – and one that will surely enhance the experience.
Designed by Norway’s Andreas Engesvik and Jonas R Stokke, the collection brings intentional moments of respite and reflection to Oslo’s new Munch Museum.