Architecture in Norway – Petter Dass Museum Alstahaug

Helgeland, Petter Dass Museum Alstahaug, Kystriksvejen, Kodak Ektar, Leica Elmarit M 2.8 28 asph. | ©

Anyone who travels through Norway with open eyes will discover exciting and atypical Norwegian architecture in many places. Today we are in Alstahaug in Helgeland and are approaching the architecture of the Petter Dass Museum.

Architecture in Norway – Petter Dass Museum Alstahaug

To the non-Norwegians often unknown side of the country includes also the artistic diversity that can be discovered across Norway in Norway. The example of the Petter Dass Museum in Alstahaug on the coast of Helgeland, the southern part of the Northland, shows that cultural treasures such as that of the Norwegian writer Petter Dass are combined with modern architecture.

Petter Dass – one of the famous Norwegian poets

Petter Dass is one of the best known Norwegian poets and poets of the 17th century. His works deal with the rough nature and the identity of the people who have found their home in this environment. He is also one of the great authors of hymns.

To this day, his works are repeatedly published in new editions and have always been inspiration for other artists in a wide variety of genres.

Here in Alstahaug, a community that today also includes 920 small islands, Petter Dass was probably born in 1648. His father was a Scottish merchant. He studied theology in Copenhagen and then worked in his homeland until his death on August 17, 1707 as a tutor, chaplain and priest.

Petter Dass is said to have been a very self-confident and radiant personality, about whom so many legends are based. He shouldn’t even be intimidated by the devil, even as a pious person. He caused a scandal right at the beginning of his professional career: as tutor to the local priest, he became intimate with his daughter and she became pregnant. That was not well received, but it did not harm him in the long run.

The home of Petter Dass: Alstahaug

Helgeland, Petter Dass Museum Alstahaug, Kystriksvejen, Kodak Ektar, Leica Elmarit M 2.8 28 asph. | ©

Helgeland, Petter Dass Museum Alstahaug, Kystriksvejen, Kodak Ektar, Leica Elmarit M 2.8 28 asph. | ©

Alstahaug, as I said, is on the one hand the home of Petter Dass, on the other hand it is also a large community. About 7,400 residents live in Alstahaug. But we find the most beautiful place of Alstahaug here, directly on the coastal panorama route through Helgeland. A stone church with an onion dome is quite unusual for Norway, but the red houses behind it can be found everywhere in Norway and they are part of what we associate with Norway.

Directly behind the ensemble of church and residential buildings, a rocky hill extends across the development. And right in the middle of this historical setting is the Petter Dass Museum.

The architecture of the Petter Dass Museum

Petter Dass Museum Altahaug, Helgeland. Kodak Ektar, Leica M Elmarit 2.8 28 asph. | ©

Petter Dass Museum Altahaug, Helgeland. Kodak Ektar, Leica M Elmarit 2.8 28 asph. | ©

The municipality of Alstahaug wanted to memorialize its most famous citizen. And so the Norwegian-American architecture firm Snøhetta AS was commissioned to create a building as a symbol of the region, which should be worthy of the life and work of Petter Dass. It was assumed that the future Petter Dass Museum would integrate into the landscape.

The name of the architecture firm, Snøhetta, is also the program to approach such a project. The building should not become a skyscraper, but rather one that integrates itself flat into the landscape like a snow cap.

Snøhetta AS is known for its very own architectural style. Formally, their designs are simple and as low and horizontal as possible. They don’t get up, they integrate. They form a symbolic contrast to the environment in the context of the topic.

The Petter Dass Museum is a building close to the ground, corresponding to the down-to-earthness of the poet and poet Petter Dass. It is modest in appearance and massive in appearance. Just like the works of Petter Dass.

The Petter Dass Museum consists of a steel-concrete structure, is fitted into the milled rocks, just as a fixed part of the environment as the poems by Petter Dass about nature and the rough life in its native environment, the southern Nordland.

At the front, the Petter Dass Museum is open to everyone, another metaphor for the artist’s works. On the ground floor there is a spacious lobby with a small museum shop and a reception, an auditorium, cloakroom, toilets and an open, simple café.

The exhibition areas of the Petter Dass Museum are on the level above, and the library, offices and meeting rooms are on the third floor.

Das Petter Dass Museum is located exactly between the Alstahaug church and the group of buildings, thereby stepping back behind the line of development. And yet it connects the church with worldly life. This is how you enter the Petter Dass Museum, where you walk between the church and the residential buildings to the main portal of the museum with its large open front. On the back, the architecture of the Petter Dass Museum rises above the sea, with a dark front. The sea, with which the Norwegian people have always been deeply rooted and the sea, which they have always had to face, but at the same time benefit from it, by keeping an overview.

International prizes and awards for the architecture of the Petter Dass Museum Alstahaug

First of all, it is worth mentioning that the architecture office Snøhetta AS works with an equal structure and that teamwork comes first. It is also noteworthy that the designs were created in close collaboration between an architect and a landscape architect.

The architecture of the Petter The museum has been of great national and international interest ever since. He received the following awards and attention:

  • Honorable mention in connection with the 2008 National Building Settlement Award.
  • Nominated with Norwegian Opera & Ballet as a Norwegian participant in the World Architecture Festival in the Barcelona Culture category, 2008.
  • 2010 from the Northern Norwegian Entrepreneurs Service Organization (NESO) to “Northern Norwegian Construction of the Year”


  • ArchDaily: Your own look at the architecture website, where the world’s most prestigious and architectural projects are presented.
  • Taschen Verlag: “ARCHITECTURE NOW! MUSEUMS ”, 2011. Mentioned as the only museum building in the Nordic countries.
  • Lars Müller Verlag: “SNOWHETTA WORKS”, 2009.

The building is also represented in the “SPOR” exhibition of the National Museum. Norwegian Architecture 2005-2010 “, which was exhibited at the National Museum in 2011. The exhibition has traveled internationally and nationally since 2012.

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