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Bigler, Brian J.; Mudrey, Lynn Martinson / The Norway Building of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair : a building's journey from Norway to America : an architectural legacy

Architectural legacy,   pp. 72-84 PDF (3.6 MB)

Page 77

The Norway Building has a chassis made of huge logs set into a stone
foundation. Two long beams run the length of the building, and a grid of
intercrossed logs join the beams together. At each intersection of the logs
a stave rises, and these are tied together in the rafters with a framework
of self-supporting scissor beams. The inner-most, highest roof is buttressed
by the lower roofs, allowing the central nave to soar 36 feet.
The staves of the Norway Building are constructed of four logs bolted
together to make a larger, bundle-like stave. This was a practical solution
to the problem of making the building portable, but it created a challenge
for the architect. The old stave churches often had carved faces as the
column capitals, but the visual effect of the four-part staves meant that
pairs of faces needed to be employed instead. These have been interpreted
as the kings and queens from the Norse Sagas. The tradition of carving
these faces with individual personalities, almost as caricatures, is very
much alive. No two faces are alike, and some are humorously ugly. The
dragons carved into the interior quadrant brackets are reminiscent of the
Gol Church.
The clerestory level is dominated by a row of St. Andrew's crosses,
and a series of transom windows admit light from above. Visitors from
Norway are often struck with the brightness of the building's interior, in
marked contrast to the dim interiors of the old stave churches. Large num-
bers of windows, both above and below, admit daylight, answering the
need for natural lighting in a public exhibition building. An elaborate par-
quet floor, thoroughly contemporary to the 1890's, gives the Norway
Building the richness of multi-colored wood tones. The interior wall sur-
faces are coated with a creosote finish, as the original stave churches
would have been.
Particular attention must be paid to the carvings surrounding the
Norway Building's entryway. These carvings are a studious composite of
other stave church portals, and were executed by Peder Kvaale of Orkdal,
an employee of the Thams company who was originally a farmer. Heads
of great beasts emerge from the lower comers of the doorframe, and their
tongues become an elaborate, zoomorphic tangle of serpent bodies, birds'
necks and floral vines. Biting heads intermingle with grasping claws with
impressive Viking intensity. The style is marvelously pagan and vigorous.
Acanthus motifs define the doorposts themselves, and a more formal frieze
of acanthus leaves makes up the portal base. The church portals of Al,

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