Moesgaard Museum: Build as an Excavation


© Moesgaard Museum

Just south of Aarhus, the natural landscape of Skåde Hills (Skåde Bakker) is broken by a concrete building with a sloping grass roof that rises from the land. The building almost grows out of the field to make room for the historical finds and their visitors at MOMU – Moesgaard Museum.

As with an archaeological excavation, the museum is designed in a way that allows visitors to gradually delve deeper into the layers of history. The building has staggered levels with notches, as if someone had lifted the grass, dug a hole in the ground, and placed a building inside it. It thus consists of both larger and smaller spaces, inviting various forms of exhibition about human history.

An Inviting Hill

Even when the museum is closed, the building functions as a public space. In the warmer months, the roof can be used as a picnic spot with a view over Aarhus Bay. In winter, when snow falls, it transforms into the area’s largest sledding hill.

The decision to cover the top with grass and moss gives the building its versatility. The greenery also helps to soften the large amount of concrete and integrates it into the landscape. Furthermore, the design draws on a palette of materials that emphasizes that this is a building deeply connected with the land and its history.

Concrete is used extensively to create a robust whole, while less dense materials such as glass and wood punctuate the building, helping it fit better into its surroundings. Vertical wooden slats mimic the trees in the nearby forest, breaking up the facade into narrow glass panels. Because the building is constructed in this way and, for example, has a café with an exit to the roof, the boundary between interior and exterior is dissolved. In this way, the building’s place in the terrain is underscored.

Below the Surface

When you step inside the museum, you enter an open and bright hall with an entrance foyer, ticket sales, museum shop, and a large dining hall that leads out to the roof terrace. From there, you can ascend the stairs to the ethnographic exhibition, enter the large exhibition hall, or go down the central staircase to the archaeological exhibitions about Denmark’s ancient past.

In contrast to the bright hall, you will experience a completely different atmosphere when you descend the stairs to the large and much darker exhibition area. Here, you can truly experience the underground character the building embodies. The lower rooms are without natural daylight, allowing for immersion in the historical objects.

When Moesgaard Museum was completed in 2014, it was praised for a design that creates both an indoor and outdoor gathering point for the public. Additionally, the museum is designed to be extremely safe for the precious and rare exhibits and with high standards for climate control. This makes it possible for the exhibition to house some of the most valuable cultural artifacts in the world.