curved wooden canopy draws visitors inside vesterheim's cultural hub by snøhetta

curved wooden canopy draws visitors inside vesterheim's cultural hub by snøhetta

Snøhetta joins up with Vesterheim for ‘Commons’ cultural hub

 

Transdisciplinary design practice Snøhetta and Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum complete Vesterheim Commons, a project uniting landscape and architecture traditions of Norway and the Upper Midwest. Located in Decorah, Iowa, the campus houses the world’s largest collection of Norwegian-American cultural artifacts. The new 8,000 sqft building, named The Commons, and outdoor spaces redefine the campus, providing a contemporary entry point for a cultural hub containing a museum, folk art school, and community-oriented facilities. The project integrates Vesterheim’s Heritage Park with Water Street, establishing a dynamic connection. Marked by a wooden canopy, The Commons hosts public reception spaces, flexible galleries, a digital production studio, and event spaces. The design supports year-round events and connections to Vesterheim’s Folk Art School.

curved wooden canopy draws visitors inside vesterheim's cultural hub by snøhetta
all images by Michael Grimm

 

 

Vesterheim Commons embraces Norwegian craft traditions

 

The outdoor spaces, inspired by Northeastern Iowa and Norwegian landscapes, feature plantings framing woodland clearings, creating thresholds, and defining Vesterheim’s grounds. The project, part of Snøhetta‘s 2019 master plan, aims to link past and future, connect the museum collection to Folk Art School students, and enhance the visitor experience. Using locally sourced materials like brick and wood, The Commons aligns with Norwegian craft traditions, incorporating a tactile and time-honored sensibility. The project recontextualizes the experiences of Norwegian immigrants in the United States. The use of mass timber wood frame, textured concrete walls, and locally sourced materials exemplifies the long tradition of shaping Decorah’s life and culture, contributing to the region’s vitality.

curved wooden canopy draws visitors inside vesterheim's cultural hub by snøhetta
the second-floor gallery connects to a terrace, providing outdoor space for year-round events

curved wooden canopy draws visitors inside vesterheim's cultural hub by snøhetta
Commons is marked by a soaring wooden canopy, creating a striking visual presence on the street

vesterheim-commons-snohetta-iowa-usa-designboom-1800-2

Vesterheim Commons uses locally sourced brick and wood structure contributing to the region’s vitality

curved wooden canopy draws visitors inside vesterheim's cultural hub by snøhetta
the lobby is illuminated by a wood oculus that creates a well-lit and welcoming entrance

curved wooden canopy draws visitors inside vesterheim's cultural hub by snøhetta
using local materials, the design invites visitors to appreciate the region’s architecture and landscapes

curved wooden canopy draws visitors inside vesterheim's cultural hub by snøhetta
the end of the wooden oculus opening extends through the second-floor gallery

vesterheim-commons-snohetta-iowa-usa-designboom-1800-3

the distinctive timber wood surfaces add to the tactile sensibility of the project

curved wooden canopy draws visitors inside vesterheim's cultural hub by snøhetta
the project aims to draw in local and global visitors, fostering multicultural experiences

 

 

project info:

 

name: Vesterheim Commons
architect: Snøhetta | @snohetta

collaborators: BNIM

client: Vesterheim | @vesterheim.museum

location: Decorah, Iowa, USA

photography: Michael Grimm | @michaelgrimmphoto

 

 

designboom has received this project from our DIY submissions feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.

 

edited by: christina vergopoulou | designboom

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