Living in fairy tales

Living in fairy tales

7 September 2022 Off By Facto Edizioni

/ Odense dedicates a museum to Hans Christian Andersen /

The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling, The Little Match Girl: the fairy tales penned by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen are classics that accompanied all of us as we were growing up. But Andersen was much more than a fairy tale writer, and last year his native city of Odense honored him with a museum, called H.C. Andersen House.

“H.C. Andersen was born in Odense in 1805,” explains the Odense tourist bureau. “His early years came to play a major role for the poet, and many of the fairy tales are based on experiences from his childhood. It is therefore natural that Odense has a special obligation to take care of the legacy of and the dissemination of H.C. Andersen’s life and work and the culture that formed the framework for this.” 

But H.C. Andersen House is neither a typical stuffy museum nor a fairy-tale theme park. It is a completely new type of museum that takes Andersen’s literary universe and makes it into a spacial experience, a living world, a total artistic space where architecture, sound, light and images are used to foster new encounters between the visitors and Andersen’s adventures. “Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales are just as vibrant and relevant today as they were in the 1800s when he wrote them,” explained Henrik Lübker, Curator and Creative Director of the museum. “H.C. Andersen House tells us not about the life and times of Hans Christian Andersen, the author. It describes our time. The exhibition is all about you and me. H.C. Andersen House is not about Hans Christian Andersen – but it speaks as he speaks to us.”

At the heart of the city, the museum is underground for two thirds of its area. Japanese architect Kengo Kuma designed the spectacular building, composed of a series of circular forms and curvilinear walls that meander in and out, above and under the ground throughout the site. “Andersen’s work projects the duality of the opposite that surrounds us; real and imaginary, nature and manmade, human, and animal, light and dark… Our architectural design is to reflect this essence of his work in architectural and landscape form,” wrote Kuma’s studio.

More than a museum, H.C. Andersen House is a space that cultivates wonder and imagination. “A visit to the  museum will contain more questions than answers,” continues the Odense tourist bureau. Visitors enter the building by going down a ramp, sinking into the fairy-tale underworld, and once there they may walk under a pond where mermaids swim, see a swarm of paper-cut butterflies flutter around over-sized flowers, and listen to…

Photos credit: © H.C. Andersens Hus

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