Your Rainbow Panorama

Saturday, November 26th, 2011 - Architecture

The ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum is a museum located in Aarhus, Denmark. At 10 stories high it is one of the largest museums in Europe. But those ten stories are also significant in a more unexpected, metaphorical way. Not including the basement, there are 9 different layers to the museum, an allusion to the 9 circles of hell in Dante’s Divine Comedy. But the curators weren’t just interested in hell itself, they were concerned too with the relationship between hell and heaven. So while the nine painted-black gallery spaces manifest the nine hells, a new rooftop installation by Olafur Eliasson has been chosen to represent heaven.

The project is called Your Rainbow Panorama, and it takes the shape of a massive circular catwalk surrounded by rainbow hues of glass on the roof of the building. The idea is that as you walk around the roof your perception of the city will change with the colors. According to the artist, “Your rainbow panorama enters into a dialogue with the existing architecture and reinforces what is assured beforehand, that is to say the view of the city. I have created a space which virtually erases the boundaries between inside and outside – where people become a little uncertain as to whether they have stepped into a work or into part of the museum. This uncertainty is important to me, as it encourages people to think and sense beyond the limits within which they are accustomed to moving”.

Now, to be completely honest I don’t really get or even follow the allusion to Dante’s Inferno. But that aside, this is a very cool project for much less conceptual reasons. I think that Elasson is right in thinking about the way that color can change the way we feel about a space and about a view. Not to mention the simple beauty of standing inside a rainbow space like that. I think that the group that selected his proposal did a good job recognizing these more practical considerations: “The project complies in a brilliant way with the competition’s aim to convert ARoS’ rooftop surface to a unique artistic and architectural sight of international stature. The proposal creates an extremely beautiful and poetic place, which unifies the panoramic view from the roof with an exceptional artistic-architectural dimension, contributing to the development of a new understanding of the visual art interface of architecture. It also establishes a strong identity-creating landmark for ARoS and Aarhus city.”

One of the key points they make is that this is a work of art that isn’t meant just to be experienced from the inside. The effect from far away is almost more striking, especially at night. That’s one of the main things I like about this project: how unique it is visually. On one hand, it seems odd on top of a building in a major city; it isn’t a conventional part of the urban dialogue at all. And yet, it doesn’t seem particularly out of place. It isn’t discordant or jarring, it’s just different. And that’s a really great thing because it’s also beautiful and completely centered around the human experience. The more we can break out of the modernist glass box of functionality the better (in my opinion!), because although it clearly speaks to a certain human aspiration and yearning, it doesn’t speak to what it actually is to be human. Humanity is colorful and organic and occurs (obviously) at a human scale.

Now that may seem like a somewhat ironic argument considering Your Rainbow Panorama is still a sort of modernist glass enclosure, but sometimes it’s just about baby steps. Admittedly, there are many much more interesting (and I would argue, successful) new buildings around the world, but it’s the use of color in this one that sets it apart. It still exhibits a modernist sensibility, but instead of a box, it’s a disc, and instead of clear glass it’s a burst of color. And sometimes that can make all the difference.

Source: Evolo, ARoS.

Johnston Architects

Your Rainbow Panorama | isengdude | 4.5