Since its opening in 1968, the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter (HOK) has been one of Norway's most important cultural buildings. With its distinctive, expressive architecture, organically located among the landscape of Høvikodden, and with its dynamic use of materials such as glass, stone, natural concrete and copper, the building stirred international attention. When the two young Norwegian architects, Jon Eikvar and Svein Erik Engebretsen, won the Sonja Henie and Niels Onstad architecture competition in 1964, it was their very first architectural assignment. "We tried to embody the idea of a forum where the relationship between art forms could unfold and be experienced".
Eikvar and Engebretsen's sketches portrayed a building composed with particular attention to the terrain of Høvikodden. The building unfolds across the landscape, with several halls linked to the main entrance and the now iconic central round transparent plastic tube elevator, which served as the inspiration for HOK's circular logo. The exhibition spaces open out towards the fjord like a fan, a stretched hand or an unfurled maple leaf. The architects claimed Frank Lloyd Write, Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe as their main sources of inspiration.
Henie and Onstad opted for a team of talented, young Norwegian partners, and they exclusively used Norwegian materials and suppliers throughout the construction process. The Kunstsenter's first director, Ole Henrik Moe, exerted sizable influence on the process, jointly with the two architects and the founders. The building was crafted specifically to house the visual arts, a restaurant, as well as music and performance arts. Two handmade, state-of-the-art mixing boards from Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk helped to establish HOK as one of Europe's most advanced recording studios.
In 1994, the building was extended with a two-story wing along the waterfront, comprising what was then Norway's largest exhibition space (1,300 square meters), as well as several technical spaces and workshops. The wing was designed by the same architects, Eikvar and Engebretsen, and is constructed as a natural extension of the original building. In 2003, another extension was built, which was donated by the gallery owner Haaken A. Christen and designed by architect Stein Halvorsen. The main material used in the construction of the extension was wood, in contrast to the main building's primary use of concrete and aluminum.
Altogether, the current building covers a space of approximately 9,500 square meters, of which approximately 3,500 are for exhibition space. In 2013, HOK saw the start of a major renovation project, with the aim to restore many of the original qualities of the main building from 1968, and make it more energy efficient and sustainable for the future. The restoration work will continue through 2017.
Interior and Design
The primary materials used in construction of the main building—natural concrete, glass and copper—are also reflected in the interior design of the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, together with teak and carefully selected textiles. Sonja Henie actively travelled to various retailers in her search for the perfect textiles and colours. Among others, she selected a deep red carpet from California. The colour can still be seen today on the original curtains and was used in both stairwells, in the trophy room, the auditorium and on upholstery. Henie and Onstad also commissioned one of Norway's most current prominent furniture designers, Sven Ivar Dysthe, to design a range of furniture for HOK. As a recent graduate from London, Dysthe eagerly dove into the task. He designed the Prisma series, which comprised tables, lounge chairs and ottomans produced by the Møre Lenestol Factory AS. He also designed the legendary Popcorn Chair in fiberglass and steel pipes, a chair that has since become an iconic collectors item. This furniture was produced exclusively for HOK. It was only in 2012 that the Popcorn Chair was relaunched for retail, and the remaining Prisma furniture pieces were reproduced starting in 2013. Since 2014, all of the originally designed Prisma furniture is to be found once again among areas of HOK, in keeping with the restoration project.