Plans for UFO-Like Home in Norway Are Rejected

Posted August 29, 2018 4:42 p.m. EDT

BERLIN — Controversial plans by Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard and renowned architecture firm Snohetta to build a UFO-like home in the suburbs of Oslo have been rejected by the local authorities.

The project, which was generally known as “A House to Die In” and represented an ambitious attempt to turn expressive sketches by Melgaard into architecture, had aroused condemnation because of its location, near the former winter studio of Edvard Munch. Artists and preservationists had spoken out against the project, arguing that it represents a threat to the legacy of Munch, Norway’s best-known artist and the painter of “The Scream.”

The project had already been approved by local and national preservation authorities, but on Aug. 20, municipal lawmakers from several parties announced they would support a proposal to scuttle the plans, effectively dooming the project. A final vote by the Oslo City Council will be held next Wednesday. In a joint statement, the officials stated that they would prioritize the needs of nearby residents, that the planned site for the house would “remain a green area,” and suggested that Melgaard find a new location for the house.

Melgaard is no stranger to controversy. Often described as Norway’s most provocative artist, he has often explored sexual and drug themes in his art. A 2015 Oslo exhibition juxtaposing his works with those of Munch’s spurred condemnation from some critics.

Snohetta is best known for designing the Norwegian capital’s iconic opera house and the National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York. “A House to Die In,” which Melgaard said was inspired by the homes of drug barons, was to resemble a large black crystal held above ground by a number of white sculptural elements shaped like woodland creatures.

In a text message to Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, Melgaard said, “There is great opposition to new things in Norway.” A founding partner of Snohetta stated in Norwegian media that the project is unique to the site and cannot be relocated.

Opponents argued that the site, on a hillock just below the area where Munch spent the last decades of his life, would ruin a landscape that had inspired many of the painter’s later works. Speaking to Aftenposten, Halvard Haugerud, a painter living in a nearby artist colony, said lawmakers’ decision was “sensible and good” and pointed out that “many come here to experience the atmosphere in the area Munch painted in.”