HEART Herning Museum of Contemporary Art


Iwan Baan

An undulating landscape conceals service areas and frame the contextually aware, curved roof sections of this Steven Holl-designed art museum in central Jutland.

Af Kirsten Kiser

The landscape of grass mounds and reflecting pools aligns with the building’s sloped geometry, which houses permanent and temporary exhibition galleries, a 150-seat auditorium, music rehearsal rooms, a restaurant, a media library, and administrative offices all on one level. The new surrounding landscape conceals all the parking and service areas, creating a fusion of landscape and architecture.

HEART is designed to relate to its neighbors — Utzon’s prototype house and the Angli shirt factory — thereby also relating to history. An aerial view of the new building almost resembles a collection of shirtsleeves.

The theme is about tactility and materiality. Taking as inspiration the history of textiles in Herning, the external white concrete walls, molded onsite, have a crumbled, textile-like surface. These tactile (and textile) references are continued in the roof, which governs the floor plan.

The “square,” featuring a large pool, is surrounded by the restaurant, library, and visitor center. Furnished with outdoor stage facilities, it serves as the pivotal point of relaxed social interaction during warmer seasons.

The curved roofs, made up of five shells, are a two-way truss system able to span multiple directions; this allows for a freedom between the roof structure and plan. The undersides of the interior are a simple white plaster complementing the geometry of the roof.

The overall stability of the roof is anchored by introducing thin rods within the clerestory glazing as tension elements intended to counterbalance any uneven forces over the gallery wall support, like a see-saw tied down on each side.

The gallery spaces are clean and simple, with natural light brought in through the curved roof sections. The perimeter walls are load-bearing elements, and the internal gallery walls are a lightweight construction that can be moved if required. Their perpendicular linearity plays up against the organically anthropomorphic nature of the building.

The inauguration of HEART is celebrated with the official opening of Freedom or Death, a retrospective exhibition of the work of one of the great sons of Italy, Jannis Kounellis.

HEART has two in-residence institutions: Ensemble MidtVest and Socle du Monde. The Ensemble is Denmark’s preeminent chamber music company, while Socle du Monde is a biennale founded on collaboration between artists and the business community.

A geothermal cooling system is among several green aspects that bolster the museum’s status as a model of 21st-century architecture.

Country and City



Steven Holl Architects