Norway's 'Jugendstil' Town

By Henkin, Stephen | The World and I, September 1998 | Go to article overview

Norway's 'Jugendstil' Town


Henkin, Stephen, The World and I


If you think Art Nouveau architecture belongs to only big cities like Brussels and Barcelona, better think again. Tiny Alesund on Norway's western coast has some of the best Jugendstil around.

The town of Alesund on Norway's rugged western coast boast two firsts. That it is the world's top exporter of dried cod is understandable enough, since it lies at the very epicenter of the Norwegian fishing trade. A lesser-known fact, however, is that the seaport, whose 36,000 residents are celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, has the largest concentration of Jugendstil, or Art Nouveau, architectural style in the world.

Upon encountering Alesund for the first time, tourists, especially Europeans already familar with Jugendstil, have an immediate fascination for the wide array of colorful and wistfully shaped buildings decorated with sinuous curves and elaborate ornamentation. The bright yellows, lively greens, deep blues, and in some cases flaming oranges of painted Jugendstil homes peacefully coexist with the more visually dominant stone and brick structures.

Part of the overly asymmetrical decorative style that spread throughout Europe between the 1880s and World War I, Alesund's brand of Jugendstil likewise makes ample use of undulating forms of all kinds. Most obvious in the architectural detail are the whiplash curves of foliate forms, as well as flames, waves, and the flowing hair of female figures.

What led Alesund to adopt this charming style was a catastrophe: a fire that burned down the entire town center of more than a thousand structures during a gale one winter's night in 1904. Miraculously, only one person, an elderly woman, lost her life.

Equally amazing was the new town that arose from the ashes in just three years, thanks to Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm II, who sent shiploads of provisions, building materials, and most importantly, architects and artisans trained in Art Nouveau, the popular style of the time. The numerous towers, turrets, and medieval/romantic facades built in stone were imbued with locally inspired figureheads, dragon-style ornaments from Norwegian romantic architecture, and borders from Nordic mythology.

"Dragon-style motifs are found in Norwegian carpets, paintings, house details--so it is a part of Norwegian tradition," says Ivar Braaten, curator of the Alesund Museum. He adds that when Alesund changed from a rural to an urban society after Norway's liberation from Sweden, the town became the "forerunner" of the new Norway. "Jugendstil architecture provided a sense of identity for the urban-community lifestyle. The previous style was dominated by a protest against urbanization and industrialization," notes the curator.

"Art Nouveau was the first style that broke with the historic traditions that preceded it," he says. "Previous styles were copies of preceding ones, such as the Viking and medieval periods [in Norway], which had rich arts-and-crafts traditions." Indeed, no longer was architecture a mere reinterpretation of historicity. Conservative tastes in exuberant styles such as Neo-Classical, Neo-Romanesque, Neo-Gothic, and Neo-Baroque were no longer acceptable to bold, fin-de-siecle architects, who sought a distinctive new style. To a great extent, the sweeping innovations and the immediate aesthetic appeal of Art Nouveau created an architecture brimming with the hope, optimism, and new possibilities that the twentieth century, with its burgeoning cities and economies, seemed to offer.

An offshoot of Symbolism and the Arts and Crafts Movement, both products of 1880s Europe, Art Nouveau, or "new style," is called Jugendstil in both German and Norwegian. Jugend simply means "youth" in German, and in fact, the name of the style derives from the magazine Die Jugend, which was founded in Munich in 1896. The style caught on internationally with the work of Belgian architecture professor Victor Horta and his memorable Maison Tassel in 1893. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Norway's 'Jugendstil' Town
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.