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The architect Lars Backer - The breakthrough of Modernism in Norway

Press Release   •   Mar 18, 2016 09:57 GMT

With his designs for Skansen Restaurant, Ekeberg Restaurant and the Horn Building, the architect Lars Backer brought the International Style in architecture to Norway. Many people had felt that a new era was imminent, and now it had arrived.

The exhibition “Lars Backer – architect. A pioneer of Norwegian Modernism” tells the story of Lars Backer’s life, explains his contribution to Norwegian architecture, and sheds light on the era he lived in.

A time of transition
The mid-1920s were a time of transition in Norway. Neoclassicism was still the predominant architectural style: power stations, banks, housing developments, sports facilities, museums and cinemas all bore the hallmarks of Ancient Greek and Roman architecture. Lars Backer contributed to this movement with his Frogner Cinema, the beautiful Villa Larsen, and a university project executed in the neoclassical style.

At the same time Backer, along with his contemporaries, was writing about the need for a new kind of architecture. In Norway the breakthrough came in 1927 with the completion of Skansen Restaurant. This building made Backer a star – a national celebrity. He proceeded to build up a successful architectural practice, which was probably the largest in Norway at that time.

The breakthrough of Functionalism
In Norwegian and Nordic architecture, the year 1930 marked a watershed. A major exhibition in Stockholm that summer presenting a vision of architecture in the future aroused great public enthusiasm. In Scandinavia, the new style was nicknamed “Funkis” (an abbreviation of the word “Funktionalism”).

The year 1930 was also the year that Lars Backer died at the age of just 38 of a streptococcal infection. His three last buildings contributed to paving the way for the new architecture in Norway. The first two, Skansen Restaurant and Ekeberg Restaurant, encountered fierce criticism. In contrast, the Horn Building, completed in 1930, was well received. The new architecture was victorious.

A newly published book about Lars Backer
The exhibition is based on the themes explored in the newly published book by the exhibition’s curator Ulf Grønvold, Arkitekt Lars Backer og hans tid [The architect Lars Backer and his time]. Curated from a cross-disciplinary perspective, the items on display include drawings by Lars Backer, furniture, objects and historical photographs, as well as paintings by J.C. Dahl, Harriet Backer and Per Krohg.

”Lars Backer – Architect. A Pioneer of Norwegian Modernism”, The National Museum – Architecture, 1 April 2016–14 August 2016.

Eva Amine Wold Engeset, press officer, Tel.: +47 469 50 102 /

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