This museum takes you inside the mind of a fairy tale master


To design a new museum about Hans Christian Andersen, recognized for fairy tales like The Little Mermaid and The Emperor’s New Garments, a specific amount of make-believe was required.

Opening right now in the Danish metropolis of Odense, the place Andersen was born in 1805, the new H.C. Andersen House makes use of Andersen’s playful storytelling model as a lens to view his life and work. With immersive displays that convey inanimate objects to life, a heavy dose of whimsy, and a fairy tale-like blurring of actuality, the museum is much less a historic overview than a journey inside Andersen’s mind.

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[Rendering: Kengo Kuma & Associates/Cornelius+Vöge/Masu planning/]

Designed by Tokyo-based architects Kengo Kuma and Associates, with exhibition design by London-based Event Communications, the $62 million museum options a collection of galleries in oval-shaped rooms. They interpret Andersen’s life and a few of his many fairy tales via specifically commissioned new works from a dozen artists, together with illustrators, a composer, and a sculptor. With most of the museum’s areas under floor, the buildings are accessed via a massive backyard that regularly attracts guests down a meandering ramp into the exhibition areas. One is a sunken bowl coated in water-topped glass, giving guests under the expertise of residing underwater, like the Little Mermaid. As an alternative of a easy biography, the museum tries to create an all-encompassing expertise that blends the story of Andersen’s life with the fanciful tales he wrote.

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[Rendering: Kengo Kuma & Associates/Cornelius+Vöge/Masu planning]

“This was a chance to make one thing that’s extra in the vein of how Andersen tells his fairy tales. Classical museums are all about delivering reality to the guests, saying ‘that is the way it occurred.’ However Andersen’s fairy tales are the exact opposite,” says Henrik Lübker, the museum’s inventive director.


One instance is The Princess and the Pea, a tale about a princess whose declare of royalty is examined by her capacity to sense the discomfort of a pea hidden beneath 20 mattresses. Andersen ends the story by writing “There, that’s a true story.”

“He leaves it as much as the reader to determine whether or not he means a true story or a true story,” Lübker says. “He pulls the rug out from beneath the authenticity of his personal tales to create this place between reality and fiction.”

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[Photo: Laerke Beck Johansen/H.C. Andersen’s House]

The 60,000-square-foot museum goals to create a equally ambiguous area. Lübker says the museum staff began first with the exhibition design, specializing in the way it may present a historic report of a world-famous writer in addition to a bodily manifestation of the imaginative worlds he created. Skewed notion and malleable info grew to become main themes, largely as a result of Andersen himself performed so unfastened with what certified as reality. “Now we have three and a half autobiographies by him they usually’re not the identical. At completely different level in life he offered himself in numerous manners as a result of he needed individuals to see him in numerous methods,” Lübker says. “Authors, typically they will’t be trusted. Particularly fairy tale authors, as a result of they’re making stuff up. So there’s no true model of Andersen.”

The various methods Andersen offered himself mirrored the a number of vantage factors evident in his tales, which typically supply contradicting views of what is occurring. Lübker says his tales typically centered on the relationships between characters and their perceptions of one another quite than deep psychological portraits from one all-knowing narrator. That ended up guiding the improvement of the exhibitions. Guests to the museum don headphones that play dialog from Andersen, voices of characters from his tales, and even personified objects in the galleries. Exact location-sensing know-how permits completely different sounds and dialog to play relying on how a customer strikes via the area.

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[Photo: Laerke Beck Johansen/H.C. Andersen’s House]

“Andersen is making an attempt to persuade you of how the fairy tale of his life actually was, and all of the objects have completely different opinions as a result of they see it from their very own level of view,” Lübker says. “The sounds and the architectural area turns into one.”

In 2016, Kengo Kuma and Associates received a world structure competitors to translate this truth-bending expertise into bodily kind. “We have been very eager from the museum standpoint to say that this ought to be a mission that has Andersen’s approach of pondering in the structure,” Lübker says. “Is that this a closed-off world or is it a clear world? Is it one thing that privileges the line or does it privilege the curve? The curve hides issues whereas the line offers an outline of issues. So we began by asking these actually fundamental spatial questions.”


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[Photo: Laerke Beck Johansen/H.C. Andersen’s House]

That developed into a set of curving buildings, psychedelic galleries, and dreamy backyard areas that attempt to convey guests inside the worlds Andersen imagined in his fairy tales. Lübker factors to a ramp that makes a transition from the buildings to the gardens. “It’s that sense of in-between. Being in course of, being on a journey like the Little Mermaid or the Ugly Duckling that’s looking for a residence,” he says. “It’s about not having any 90-degree angles. The whole lot has a sense of steady motion.”

Even the gardens themselves inform completely different tales. One is a darkish, nearly haunted area, whereas one other is brilliant and flowery. One other out of doors area has a labyrinth with no heart. Every, Lübker says, is supposed to symbolize completely different features of Andersen’s tales, but in addition the alternative ways actual life can typically really feel scary or great or bizarre.

“You’re consistently assembly completely different expressions of Andersen’s fairy tales on this backyard area,” Lübker says. “So it’s actually about making an attempt to create an expertise the place the structure and the panorama and the exhibitions consistently reveal new concepts of the fairy tales, of Andersen’s world, of your individual world.”