The Viking Age Museum in Oslo is one of the most famous museums globally - to no surprise, as it houses invaluable Viking Age ships and objects.
So when the announcement came that it would be closed until 2025/2026 due to an ambitious expansion project, people took note.
The expansion is supposed to include the remodeling of the museum, which is supposed to be elevated from a national museum to a leading international knowledge center for the dissemination of knowledge about the Viking Age.
The new concept
The Nordic firm AART won the competition to extend the museum, and the company has provided a lot of detail on the project on its website.
"The expansion project envisions a circle-shaped building with a roof and facade clad in locally extracted Norwegian slade that will be added to the existing museum, which Arnstein Arneberg designed in 1926.
"The existing, cross-shaped building will take a prominent position in the unified building by simultaneously being the beginning and the end of the visit.
"Drawing a circle around the museum will open it up to its surroundings and create an inner courtyard while also creating an iconic signature for the museum and thereby providing new opportunities to attract visitors. In fact, the project, once completed, is expected to double the visitor count to over 1 million per year," AART states on its website.
Furthermore, according to AART, the extension will enable the museum to be transformed from a traditional archive museum into an active research museum with special exhibitions, workshops, and interactive elements on the Viking Age.
"As a fixed part of the exhibition, a so-called insight laboratory with windows will give visitors can experience the archeologists' work with the historical findings and thus gain a peek behind the scenes of the museum and the management of Norway's cultural heritage," AART notes, among other things.
However, the project is currently faced with a lot of uncertainty - mostly due to a massive budget breach.
Budget breaches and uncertain future
On February 8, Director of the University of Oslo Arne Benjaminsen informed the university board at the UiO that the new Viking Age Museum could be up to NOK 1 billion more expensive than budgeted.
Initially, the museum had a cost framework of around NOK 2.14 billion. The new estimate shows that it could cost up to NOK 3.14 billion.
"The messages we have received from Statsbygg show that the reasons for the budget breach include the complexity of the project, the complexity of the building, the corona situation, and the increase in the market price of factors needed to finalize this building," Benjaminsen told the board.
Minister Ola Borten Moe: Unfortunate and unacceptable
In May, Norway's Minister of Research and Higher Education, Ola Borten Moe, announced that the costs for the construction of a new Viking Age Museum in Oslo must be reduced by NOK 1 billion.
"Based on the fact that the Norwegian Directorate of Public Construction and Property (Statsbygg) has warned that the existing plans cannot be completed within the adopted financial framework, the Ministry of Education and Research requests that the project be reviewed with a view to significantly reducing costs," a letter from the Ministry sent to Statsbygg and the University in Oslo (UiO) in May stated at the time.
Furthermore, Borten Moe told the Norwegian news bureau NTB that it is both unfortunate and unacceptable that the budget has been breached before the construction of the museum even started.
"We're pulling the emergency brake a bit and telling Statsbygg and UiO that they must work together in the coming month with a view to coming back to us with a project that is within the approved cost framework... The days when the (Norwegian) state would pick up the bill for construction projects that go far beyond the cost framework is over," Minister Borten Moe added.
The Minister, for his part, believes that it should be possible to have a good Viking Age Museum within the framework of NOK 2.14 billion.
"My experience is that when people work well together, you can achieve a lot," Borten Moe said in May.
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