Louisiana is considered a major work of Danish modernist architecture. In the well-balanced style of the late 1950's discreet modernism, the museum presents itself as a horizontal and understated building complex that fits gracefully and intimately into the landscape.
It is precisely the unpretentious aspect of Louisiana’s architecture that strikes the eye on the first visit. In the mid-50s, when the museum’s founder, Knud W. Jensen, asked the architects Jørgen Bo and Wilhelm Wohlert to build a museum based on the old villa, their basic conception was to link the architecture with the natural surroundings.
Story of the museum
Louisiana's founder, Knud W. Jensen, wanted to create a museum where Danes could see modern art, which until then had no special place in the Danish museums.
Louisiana has expanded considerably since opening in 1958. All seven extensions and alterations have been carried out by the architects Bo and Wohlert – supplemented by architect Claus Wohlert on the projects from the East Wing onwards.
It has been possible to maintain the original plan and fit the gradually larger Louisiana perfectly into the terrain, the trees, the lawns, and the rest. The museum thus still appears an integrated whole in which the interplay among architecture, the Park, and nature create a special resonance for Louisiana visitors.
1958 NORTH WING
When Louisiana first opened to the public in 1958, it consisted of several glass corridors and the three pavilions that connected the old villa to the cafeteria with a view of Sweden. This section, which includes the Giacometti Hall and the Jorn Hall, is designated as the North Wing.
1966-76 WEST WING AND CONCERT HALL
Louisiana quickly outgrew its framework. As early as in 1966 and 1971, the museum was expanded with the two floors of the West Wing. In 1976 came the Concert Hall, whose acoustics and atmosphere make it particularly suitable for chamber music. The Concert Hall has also always been the place where Louisiana has invited the public to debates, lectures, and other events. The seats in the Concert Hall were designed by Poul Kjaerholm, and the end walls are decorated with paintings created for the space by Sam Francis.
1982 SOUTH WING
With the South Wing, Louisiana added an exhibition room with a higher ceiling and more space than in the previously existing buildings. The high space highlights the qualities of the artwork, giving it plenty of surrounding space and optimal daylight. The South Wing is built into the terrain in order to maintain Louisiana’s low profile.
1991 EAST WING (GRAPHICS WING)
With the construction of the East Wing, which was completed in 1991, the museum buildings became connected in a roughly circular form. The floor plan was improved significantly, and now you could walk all the way around on a route where you sometimes concentrate on the artwork and sometimes shift over to a view of the Park or the Sound. The underground East Wing is also referred to as the Graphics Wing because it gives the opportunity to exhibit drawings and graphics that must not be exposed to daylight. For the same reason, the wing is often used for exhibitions of photographic, video, and light artwork. The East Wing leads to the Great Hall, which is located beneath the Calder Terrace.
1994-98 CHILDREN’S WING AND SHOP
With the Children’s Wing, from 1994, Louisiana acquired a unique setting for the museum’s activities for children and young people. In 1998 came an extension to improve the museum’s visitor facilities. At the same time, better space was allocated to the Louisiana Shop.
Louisiana’s architecture is known for its discrete pavilions and semi-transparent glass corridors. The windows that separate the museum’s interior from the outdoors, however, place enormous demands on security and climate control – to an extent that could not have been foreseen at the museum’s founding. In order to continue to introduce the public to the very best contemporary artwork, it is essential that the museum meets the most stringent applicable standards and requirements. The museum, therefore, carried out, from 2003 to 2006, a comprehensive modernization. Without disturbing the buildings’ aesthetic integrity and ease, this project provided Louisiana with all the relevant technology and ensured that it would thrive as a meeting place for people and art well into the 21st century. The modernization was completed with a ten-figure amount provided by both private funds and an extraordinary grant from the Danish Ministry of Culture.
BO & WOHLERT
When Knud W. Jensen took over the property in 1955, he imagined at first that the new museum would consist of the Old Villa and a separate exhibition pavilion at the edge of the cliff facing the Sound. But in his collaboration with the two architects Jørgen Bo and Vilhelm Wohlert, they conceived of a plan in which the buildings would be connected in such a way that visitors would feel as though they were on a "covered stroll" through the park.
“It was an ideal location for a museum,” wrote Knud W. Jensen upon the museum’s fortieth anniversary, ”but the lot made its own demands and became in a sense our employer, making the final decisions about where the buildings should stand and where the sculptures should be placed.”
The construction began in mid-1956 and lasted until the museum's opening in 1958. Bo and Wohlert’s original design idiom featured long whitewashed walls, exposed structures, laminated wooden ceilings, and deep-red tiled floors. And then of course the large glass panels that open into the surroundings and contribute to a unique architectural lightness.
Knud W. Jensen (1916-2000) Louisiana's founder
The two architects took their inspiration from both sides of the Pacific. Wohlert had studied at the University of California at Berkeley, where he had the opportunity to become acquainted with the so-called Bay Area architecture of the wooden houses surrounding the San Francisco Bay. But Louisiana also has clear references to the traditional simplicity of Japanese building style, which the architects succeeded in transplanting elegantly in a Danish setting. It has been said that from the beginning two factors were critical to Louisiana’s architecture: coherence and gentleness.
JØRGEN BO (1919-99).
Graduated from the School of Architecture at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1941, where he was appointed professor in 1960. In addition to the long-standing collaboration on the construction and expansion of Louisiana, he also designed with Vilhelm Wohlert the Danish Embassy in Brazil (1972-74) and the Art Museum in Bochum, Germany (1978-83), among many other buildings. With Karen and Ebbe Clemmensen, he built the Blågård Seminary in Gladsaxe, Denmark (1962-66), and with Anders Hegelund as associate architect, IBM’s Danish headquarters in Lundtofte (1970-72). Jørgen Bo received many honors, including the Eckersberg Medal in 1959 and the C.F. Hansen Medal in 1983.
Vilhelm Wohlert (1920-2007).
Studied at the School of Architecture at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts under Kaare Klint. Graduated in 1944; professor of architecture from 1968 to 1986. As an independent architect, he completed a wide variety of assignments, including the renovation of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek museum (with Viggo Sten Moller, 1956-58). Afterward, he became the permanent architect for Ny Carlsberg Foundation. In addition to their collaboration on Louisiana with Jørgen Bo, the two partners also built Kirstine Park in Hørsholm and Piniehøj in Rungsted. Wohlert designed several churches and – with the Exners – also Frederik IX’s burial site at Roskilde Cathedral. He played a key role in efforts to preserve traditional Danish building culture, and he managed numerous restorations, including Christian VII’s Palace at Amalienborg and the Copenhagen Cathedral. Wohlert was awarded the Eckersberg Medal and Træprisen (for Louisiana), both in 1958, and the C.F. Hansen Medal in 1979, among other honors.
JEAN NOUVEL ON LOUISIANA
In 2005 french starchitect Jean Nouvel and the Louisiana Museum came together to collaborate on the exhibition 'Jean Nouvel - Louisiana Manifesto'.
Ten years on, Nouvel has revisited the museum and shares his thoughts and passion about a place where architecture, nature, and art belong together. "At Louisiana," says Nouvel, "each thing is directly felt, and everything is at home".