Hamar Cultural Centre (Hamar Kulturhus)
Hamar, Norway
2008 - 2014

Ur­ban home­li­ness

Prestige architecture for the people

Popular culture and fine arts live side by side in the new cultural centre in the Norwegian city of Hamar. Vandkunsten designed the building, which locals have dubbed Hamar’s cultural living room.

In 2002, Hamar Municipality held a small competition for the design of the cultural centre, which Vandkunsten won. However it took 12 years before the project was completed, in 2014, and Hamar Cultural Centre was able to welcome the public. The multi-purpose centre contains a library, music practice rooms, a cinema, exhibition facilities, stages, a youth centre and many other services and facilities.

Inside, users encounter a democratic architecture, where raw and honest materials form the setting for informal meeting places. The 15,000-square-metre cultural centre is also conjoined with the city’s characteristic People’s House (Folkets Hus).

The unperfect

‘This project stands out in fact that we were able to include a number of solutions that rarely meet the client’s approval. For example, there were hardly any painting contracts. Normally, most of the surfaces would be plastered and spackled in preparation for a coat of white paint. Instead, we have preserved an industrial expression with raw concrete, visible installations and other similar features.
As an architecture firm, we have always had a special affinity for imperfection. The aspects that noticeably reduce the distance between architecture and user. Naturally, this quality is especially important in a cultural building with a broad and diverse audience, such as this one.’

–Flemming Ibsen, Architect MAA, partner at Vandkunsten

Transparent and accessible

The elongated, floating structure has become a distinctive element in the urban space. Quite extraordinarily, the building traverses the urban grid structure, thus creating a much-needed wall on the city square. The transparent glass facade invites the public in and underscores the sense of accessibility that permeates the building throughout.

Raw materials and exposed installations

The exterior of the building is in pre-patinated, dark zinc and glass, and the materials used in the interior of the Cultural House serve to underscore the industrial expression: raw, unfinished concrete, golden plywood, custom-made sheet iron main stairs and exposed installations.

Accessibility is evident everywhere

This is not a cultural prestige project in a traditional sense; instead, it is a building raised on a robust foundation – ready for use and with the potential for continuous development.

A permanent art project

In extension of the construction of the building, some of the exposed walls and surfaces have been decorated by artist Nils Erik Gjerdevik with art works applied directly on the materials. A group, which includes representation from Vandkunsten, is in charge of selecting the artists for this task.

Urban reconstruction

The building complex spans two city blocks in Hamar’s characteristic grid structure. The blocks in question, however, have been hard hit by post-war architectural experiments, something which the building helps to set right by recreating one side of the city’s symmetrical main square.

Transparency offers social connections

Transparency is key to the experience of the building: events in the culture house become visible in the city, library users get a sense of what is going on elsewhere in the building, and moviegoers today might become theatregoers of tomorrow.

Project facts


Project name: Hamar Cultural Centre (Hamar Kulturhus)

Category:Culture & Institutions

Client: Hamar Munincipality

Location: Hamar, Norway

Gross area: 15.000

Date: 2008 - 2014

Status: Completed

Cost of construction: 600 mio DKK


Program: Cultural centre, theater, cinemas, café, library,

Activity: Architecture and landscape

Job type: 1st Prize in competition

Construction system: Concrete

Contact: Michael Delin, md@vandkunst.dk

Project group: Michael Delin, Gilles Charrier, Olmo Ahlmann, Hildur Hansen, Jens Thomas Arnfred, Thomas Nybo Rasmussen, Flemming Ibsen

Employees: Jørgen Bech Taxholm, Daniel Christensen, Ida Rylander, Jens Peter Kragh, Bjørn Krogh Andersen and Ida-Fatima Hansen


Architect: Vandkunsten

Landscape: Vandkunsten

Engineer: Norconsult, IBR Elprosjekt, Aalerud, ÅF-consult, Brekke&Strand Akustik, NovoScen

Contractor: Martin M Bakken

Consultant: Lights: Jesper Kongshaug