The magical world of the beloved author and artist, Hans Christian Andersen, comes to life in Odense, Denmark, where the H.C. Andersen House opened its doors in 2021. The dreamlike architecture creates the setting for an unforgettable exhibition that introduces a new perspective to Andersen's classic fairy tales.
HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN's fairytales have captivated both children and adults alike around the world for decades. Located in Odense, Denmark, the H.C. Andersen House introduces a new perspective on the magnificent mind of the ingenious artist and his fantastical universe through multimedia art and surprising architecture.
The museum was designed by renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and his office, Kengo Kuma & Associates. Covering a whopping 5,600 square feet, two-thirds of the museum is located underground.
The magical space intertwines with a labyrinthine garden that also serves as a public park for the residents of Odense. The landscaping was created by Danish MASU planning.
“Literature and architecture have a lot in common: they both have to provide people with dreams.”
The design language of the buildings is dominated by circular, curved lines and the fascinating humility of natural materials. Functional, Nordic materials such as wood, stone, concrete and glass anchor the dreamlike building in everyday realism and its surroundings – yet there is still magic in every detail.
H.C. Andersen House’s above-ground pavilions carry subtle references to Andersen’s Tinderbox story, where a hollow tree trunk serves as a gateway to a magical underground world. The façade and frame of the round buildings are made of pine, while inside the exposed larch beams and beech floors catch the eye.
Concrete was chosen as the main material for the spaces below ground level, and its cool, minimalist feel serves as the perfect backdrop for the exceptional exhibition. The multimedia exhibition consists of writing, installations, sound and visual art, and has been created by 12 carefully curated artists from around the world.
Architect Kengo Kuma drew inspiration for the project from both Andersen’s fairy tales and his modest birthplace, which is located just a few blocks from the H.C. Andersen House and also serves as a museum. Kuma sees Andersen's greatest talent – and his gift to the public – in the fact that he was able to create dreams in the middle of everyday life.
“Literature and architecture have a lot in common: they both have to provide people with dreams. Hans Christian Andersen's message to us is that dreams come from everyday life. That is why it was also important for us that the magic of this project was created entirely from ordinary materials,” Kuma elaborates.
The intertwined indoor and outdoor spaces – as well as the above-ground and underground worlds – blur the hierarchy of the spaces and create a strong experience of detachment and disorientation. The circular lines and the significant height differences in the milieu underline the dreamlike feel of the building and create an interesting, immersive whole.
The intertwined indoor and outdoor spaces – as well as the above-ground and underground worlds – blur the hierarchy of the spaces and create a strong experience of detachment and disorientation.
“The hedges represent the dualistic idea of the fairytale world and real-world co-existing back to back while stretching the concept of indoor spaces and outdoor spaces. We strongly believe that architecture should not be a detached monument, but should organically grow into the land that it stands on,” concludes architect Yuki Ikeguchi.
Text: Mira Ahola Images: Bjœrn Klausen, Lærke Beck Johansen and Rasmus Hjortshøj