The Arch in Mandal, Norway by 3XN, 2011.
Mandal is a town of 15,000 people southwest of Oslo at the very tip of Norway. It overlooks the North Sea, and in every other way relates to the surrounding water, be it the sea, the river, or inlets. Danish architects 3XN describe the town as charming, marked by "historic white wooden houses, ... narrow streets, a river running through the center, and beach and forest nearby." Their design for a cultural center in Mandal responds to history and landscape, replacing industry with culture in this remote place.
For Norwegians, Mandal is a popular resort town for its beaches. An aerial view of the town reveals a long, gentle arc of sand open to the south, reaching towards the river and the old industrial core where the cultural center is located. "The Arch," as the cultural center is called, perches itself on the riverfront; its white surfaces respond to the historical houses in town. As well, the low, tapering building does not overwhelm the context, where trees are the tallest neighbors and create a green backdrop for the white buildings.
The Arch is a house of the people, so we designed a building that in an elegant and soft motion gathers the town's cultural life, while the modern expression bears witness to a town in development. -Jan Ammundsen, Partner and Head of Design at 3XN
Inside and out, Ammundsen's design is about long, gentle curves, be it the shape of the facade's openings, the way the building ramps up from the land side, or the way the primary exterior walls arc in plan. There seems to be a relationship between the building's form and the beach, the river, and other natural features in the area. With the white walls, it's as if Ammundsen and company want to make the building a balance of the physical and the manmade.
In addition to designing The Arch, 3XN has master planned the context for the building. "Future projects" surround the cultural center on the northeast and southwest, bending to The Arch's curves yet more in tune with the historical buildings that came before in their small scale. Another planned element is a pedestrian bridge, now under construction, that spans the river and links the cultural center to the west side of Mandal. As expected, the bridge follows The Arch's curve and offers spots to take in natural and historical views of the town and the cultural center itself.