ARoS Aarhus Art Museum

An evolving museum

First a square, then a rainbow, and soon a dome – like a living organism, the ARoS Aarhus Art Museum has developed since the completion of the remarkable square building in 2004. With the addition of Olafur Eliasson’s ‘Your Rainbow Panorama’ (2011), the museum reached further towards the sky, and soon it will extend below the ground with world-renowned artist James Turell’s semi-subterranean art installation ‘The Dome’. Both projects have been developed in close collaboration between Schmidt Hammer Lassen, ARoS, and the artists.

While the additions to the existing museum confirm the museum’s position as one of Northern Europe’s largest and most progressive modern art institutions, the main design feature of the original design will remain – the public thoroughfare through the building providing a vital connection with the network of streets beyond and encouraging a dynamic interplay between the museum, people, and everyday life.

As a modern art institution, ARoS Aarhus Art Museum plays a multifaceted role that reaches far beyond its traditional function as a space for conservation, curation, and exhibition. Nestled on a sloping site in the heart of Aarhus, the museum stands as an iconic landmark that has propelled the city onto the global stage by fostering connections within the local, national, and international cultural landscapes. It serves as a space for meaningful engagement and interaction, addressing contemporary social, political, and cultural issues.

While an Aarhus-icon at heart, through exhibitions and events, the museum partakes in the global conversations offering new perspectives and challenging established norms and society as we know it. It provides a space for dialogue, reflection, and exploration, fostering inclusivity, diversity, and representation.

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ARoS is an art museum and the cultural centrepiece of Aarhus, Denmark. A floating volume carved by the flow of people through it - it was specifically designed to welcome visitors, encouraging a dynamic interplay between the museum and everyday life.

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The building, set into a sloping site, has a footprint of 52 x 52 metres and stands almost 50 metres high.

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Ground floor

A spectacular spiral staircase rises up from the atrium. A sculptural form wraps around two lift shafts, providing connections to the exhibition galleries.

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In 2011 a further artistic dimension was added to the museum with Olafur Eliasson´s "Your Rainbow Panorama", a permanent artwork hovering like a luminous circle and a visual link between the museum roof and the Aarhus skyline.

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The installation creates the sensation of walking through the interior of a rainbow – visitors are able to enjoy spectacular views over the city filtered through every gradation of colour.

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I have created a space that can almost be said to erase the boundary between inside and outside – a place where you become a little uncertain as to whether you have stepped into a work of art 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 function.
– Olafur Eliasson
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Aarhus, Denmark
Art Museum
17,000 m²
Completed in 2004
The Municipality of Aarhus
1997, 1st prize in open, international competition
Interior design:
Schmidt Hammer Lassen
Niras A/S
Other Collaborators:
Studio Olafur Eliasson (artist collaboration), Jordan Acoustics (acoustic engineering)
2004, Aarhus Municiplaity's Architecture Prize, 2004, FX Awards Best Museum, 2004, InSitu Prize
Dennis Borup, Adam Mørk, DJMX, Peter Gramstrup Jensen, Schmidt Hammer Lassen

As one of Northern Europe’s largest art museums and a centrepiece in the City of Aarhus, Denmark, ARoS Aarhus Art Museum plays a significant role as a cultural hub that interacts with the city and invites people inside by offering a public route through the ground floor, integrating the building into the city’s network of streets while also encouraging a dynamic interaction between the museum and everyday life.

Since its completion in 2004, the museum has evolved and reinvented itself as a cultural institution to respond to new demands and changes in society, while simultaneously challenging the traditional role of the art museum. This has put Aarhus on the global map of contemporary art institutions and thus attracts both local, national, and international visitors.

With its central location on a sloping hill, the ARoS Aarhus Art Museum is elevated above the cityscape providing excellent views from Olafur Eliasson's Your Rainbow Panorama. The square building manifests itself as a prominent art institution, a cultural hub, and as an icon in the Aarhus city skyline.  

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From the north and the south, two dynamic ramps lead into the brightly lit reception area, where a giant spiral staircase and two elevators provide visitors with access to all the art and service departments in the building. 

The building is designed specifically to welcome visitors, straddling a public thoroughfare that transforms the museum into a ‘bridge’ linking two of the city’s cultural centres. This public route through the museum provides a vital connection with the network of streets beyond, encouraging dynamic interplay between the museum and everyday life.

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The lower level comprises special exhibition areas, “The 9 Rooms”, the junior museum, an auditorium, meeting rooms and the Art Conservation Centre, while the upper levels welcome visitors to the large exhibition halls, the library, an information centre, a restaurant and a rooftop. “The 9 Rooms” envisioned giving artists from different parts of the globe free rein to implement special installations in a room each, and are located in the vast open basement where large-scale installations can impress and powerfully impact on their visitors.

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The museum is built up around a concept whereby visitors can decide the art programme they wish to view as soon as they step into an elevator or start to climb the spiral staircase

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ARoS is a museum built on tradition and experience while simultaneously adding new features and thus pointing the way to the future. 

In 2012, the building was crowned by Olafur Eliasson's ‘Your Rainbow Panorama’, offering the sense - and experience - of ‘engaged and engaging evolution’, or simply a successful example of how art engages people and how that engagement changes art respectively. The people walking in the circle become part of the installation and signals life and movement to people watching the museum from the outside.

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