Karmøy Fishing Museum

May 22, 2000 /

Karmøj, Norway

Photo: Jiri Havran

The new museum is situated in a picturesque fjord surrounded by small, white houses and work buildings, many of which were, at one time, connected to the fishing industry.

In contrast to the siting of many buildings along the fjord, the museum is set perpendicular to the coastline on the precipice of a small cliff. The perpendicular arrangement allows the thin side of the structure to become a giant window onto the sea. The long, thin proportions also set the museum apart from surrounding buildings that are generally more rectangular with widths and heights nearly equal.

Photo: Jiri Havran

Photo: Jiri Havran

Concrete is the primary building material instead of the more common white wood siding found on neighboring structures. The monolithic concrete form expresses the notion that the fishing industry is a working, utilitarian society, not just a collection of quaint small houses.

Concrete might seem too remote a material for the landscape. To place it more firmly in context, the concrete has been treated with a fertilizing chemical that allows moss to grow on exterior surfaces without damaging the concrete. The coastal rocks and boulders are covered in a variety of fungi, moss, and grasses creating a beautiful pattern of greens, golds, and grays during summer months. Over time, the building will also become a part of this pattern.

Photo: Jiri Havran

The small budget called for a design that could be easily expanded in the future. Since concrete is not very suitable for demolition and extension large openings were created to allow for a future kind of plug-in plan when financially possible. These openings are finished in glass, where daylight is required, or covered in natural-finished plywood panels that patina with time.

The building is approached from the back along a service road. A grove of trees planted near the entrance extends the cultural landscape into the museum's surroundings. By the main entrance the largest opening is covered with bracken weave over glass. The bracken weave is a traditional building technique used to climatize buildings made by weaving bracken branches, basket-like, so tightly that wind cannot easily penetrate. The leaves, normally trimmed, have been left in their original state giving the facade a rough texture similar to the growth around it.

Photo: Jiri Havran

Photo: Jiri Havran

Once inside the building there is a direct view straight through the structure to the fjord and opposite shore beyond. The simple rectangular space has a gallery above that houses administrative offices. The floor of the exhibition space is rough polished concrete that reflects exterior light from the window at the end of the building, creating the sensation that the sea itself has penetrated the room.

Photo: Jiri Havran

In recent years, new industries have begun to replace the traditional forms of labor that sustained smaller, rural communities. In many places, these traditional industries provided more than simply money and resources; they were fused into the everyday subtleties of life. In Norwegian coastal communities, oil-based services and State-sponsored bureaucracies have replaced fishing- and sea-based trades, and many are looking for ways to both honor and explore their past. The most common method is by the superficial application of images upon the existing environment-post cards of the past. Another way is to create and enforce regulations to protect historical structures. And the final way is to create museums that house artifacts from the past. In Norway, this is a common practice, and the idea of setting aside a place for the future that is formed by remnants of the past can be found in nearly every city and town.

In the small coastal community of Karmøy, fishing has been an important way of life, and while it has not entirely disappeared, it is not nearly as crucial an industry as it has been. To focus attention on this industry a small group decided to build a museum to house cultural artifacts and a small educational institution for the community. The budget for the 480-square-meter (4,320-square-foot) facility was very small (4 million Norwegian Kroners/$570,000 US), so the design could not be extravagant.

Wisely, the curators of the new museum were not only interested in preserving the past; they were also interested in providing some direction of progress for the industry of the future. The proposal was not to simply recreate history, but to capture it. The building would contain objects that are not necessarily beautiful, but rather admirable for their association with the past.

/Craig Dykers

Facts about Karmøy Fishing Museum

Total Area:

480 m2 (4320 ft2)

Design Team:
Craig Dykers
Christoph Kapeller
Kjetil Thorsen

Project Team:

Lisbeth Funk
Knut Tronstad

Landscape Architect:

Ragnhild Momrak
Rainer Stange

Engineers: S/M/E/P:

Peter Rasmussen AS

Project Administration/Construction Management:

Peter Rasmussen AS

General Contractors:

Einar Tangjerd AS, Kåløy, Kopervik


Stiftelsen Karmøy Fishing Museum

Last updated: December 19, 2013

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