Artem Case Studies

H.C. Andersen House - Museum Makes and Sculptures Event Communications Ltd

Museum design consultancy, Event Communications, asked us to create a number of fairy-tale pieces for a new, immersive museum in Odense, Denmark.

The H.C. Andersen House’s Japanese architect, Kengo Kuma, took inspiration from Andersen’s fairy tale, The Tinderbox, explaining that, “The idea behind the architectural design resembled Andersen’s method, where a small world suddenly expands to a bigger universe.” The magical underground space - which intertwines with an other-worldly, labyrinthine garden - houses an immersive exhibition which pitches the visitor into Andersen’s world of forest, ocean, palace and garden. Architecture and nature become fused into one giant artwork and perceptions are challenged at every turn.

Artem made several pieces for the museum – from a stunning brass-feathered nightingale automaton, to forests of sculpted steel coral, and gigantic flowers that loom over visitors, while strategically-placed ‘viewers’ provide unexpected perspectives on other parts of the exhibition.

The Nightingale and Cage

The nightingale’s GRP shell sits on an inner aluminium core, supported by the bird’s stainless steel legs. Its body is covered with nearly four thousand small brass feathers with larger, laser-cut, brass coverts.  Hand-beaten shoulder pieces and an electro-formed beak are made of brass-plated copper. The whole bird measures approximately 1.2 metres from beak to tail. Below the nightingale’s feet a circular platform sits on a hidden mechanical system - triggered electronically by a visitor-operated turn handle - which rotates the bird through 90 degrees on its plinth. The bird’s head also moves through 45 degrees and a gearing system opens and closes its beak and twitches its tail.

The nightingale sits within a gilded steel cage over an octagonal, Corian-clad plinth – each side CNC cut and engraved with geometric patterns. Two sides of the cage each incorporate a motion-controlled, roller banner system.

The Titles

The titles of each of the six areas of the museum were sculpted in steel to reproduce Andersen’s own handwriting. As with all the steel wirework elements that Artem created, they were finished in graphite-grey paint to suggest pencilled writing and illustration.

The Flowers

For two of the museum areas – Love Island and Thumbelina – Artem technicians sculpted flowers in steel wireframe, spray-painted graphite and lacquered. The free-flowing design of the steel flowers mimics the calligraphic handwriting of Andersen used in the wall-mounted titles, meeting the client’s design vision of words magically morphing into three dimensional objects and stories.

The Love Island flower installation consists of six flowering plants, each with one, two or three blooms. The delicate dandelion heads comprise a resin dome with stainless steel wire seeds. The other featured flowers are daisy, rose, anemone, crocus and apple blossom. Each was fixed to a steel base under the raised platform ‘island’ and anchored to the floor.

In the Thumbelina area Artem created larger versions of the flowers to create an out-sized world, which the visitor sees from the perspective of Thumbelina. The tulip, daisy, camellia and dandelion blooms were each fitted with light units. Steel wireframe bulrushes were made, using the same technique, and installed around a brushed-effect stainless steel lake.

Two of the flowers and one of the bulrushes also house viewers (see below), which were supported by separate stems fixed to the same base as the flower heads. All cabling for the lights and viewers runs through the flower stems, into the floor.

The Coral

For the Little Mermaid area, Artem created five sections of steel wireframe sculpted coral fixed to polished steel baseplates with integrated lighting and four viewers.

The Viewers

The spherical viewers incorporated into the flowers and coral sculptures are made of stainless steel hemispheres over steel frames. Inside each is an LCD monitor showing images that are part of the visitor’s multi-sensory, experiential journey through the museum. In the Thumbelina area the viewers represent dewdrops hanging from the flowers and Artem fitted these with Fresnel lenses to create a hazy distortion around a clear central image. In the Little Mermaid area the viewers represent bubbles trapped on the coral under the water. An internal mirrored geodesic dome and fixed glass lens produces an unsettling, kaleidoscopic image for the visitor, trapped in turn beneath a glass ceiling representing the surface of the water.

All pieces were installed by Artem technicians, onsite in Odense.

The new museum covers an area of 5,600 square metres. It explores Andersen’s life, work and literary universe and merges architecture, sound, light and images to depict his stories.

Following an inauguration ceremony by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark at the end of June 2021 the new museum is now partially open in a ‘soft launch’ to the public. Further exhibits will open in phases over the summer.

In July 2021, Time Magazine named Odense one of its 100 Greatest Places to Visit, mentioning the new H.C.Andersen House as a key attraction.

(Nightingale with Queen of Denmark image - copyright Ard Jongsma.  Nightingale and flowers in situ images - copyright Laerke Beck Johansen.)

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