Galleri ROM, Oslo, 08. september – 16.oktober 2016

With: Bureau Detours (DK)Gamle3Hus (NO)Project Heimatt (NO)

Curators: Ola Sendstad and Eva Bakkeslett

Producer: Henrik Minassian, Gallery ROM

After 123 years the stave church pavilion that represented Norway during the World Exhibition in Chicago in 1893 is returning home. A giant combined effort by a group of enterprising pensioners in Orkdal has made a dream come true. During the Oslo Architecture Triennial 2016 Gallery ROM will show the exhibition Little Norway. The artists’ collective Bureau Detours (DK) and the architectural firm Gamle3Hus (N) will, in collaboration with the pensioners from Orkdal, make a vigorous and engaging exhibition based around the stave church pavilion. Here enthusiasm and cooperation fuses with important questions about expressing, creating and rebuilding a sense of belonging.

At the World Exhibition in Chicago in 1893, Norway was represented with a modular stave church imitation designed by the architect Waldemar Hansteen. The pavilion was built in Strandheim Brug in Orkdal, Norway, led by the pioneering and industrious architect Christian Thams. After the Expo, the pavilion served as a weekend cottage for several prominent owners, before the Norwegian American enthusiast Isaac Dahle finally bought it in 1935. He built up the museum park Little Norway around the stave church pavilion, to convey Norwegian culture to Americans. For many years this was a popular attraction for Norwegian Americans in search of their heritage. After Little Norway was closed down a rescue mission was initiated by a gang of retirees, who wanted to disassemble the pavilion and re-erect it in Orkdal.

This came about because in 1970 Olav Sigurd Kvaale in Orkdal received a photograph of the Norway Pavilion as a gift from his uncle and learned that his grandfather had carved the entrance portal to the pavilion. 44 years later Olav went to visit the stave church pavilion in Little Norway, Wisconsin, which had already been closed down. He conceived the idea to bring it home to Orkdal, mobilised friends and acquaintances in his efforts and also got the municipality involved in the project. In 2015 a gang of old-age pensioners travelled from Orkdal to Wisconsin, dismantled the entire pavilion, packed it into containers and shipped it home. Together they are now restoring the building and preparing it for its imminent revival.

The project is the germ of an idea that came true thanks to the incredible voluntary efforts by a gang of eager pensioners. In a wider perspective, the project has many interesting aspects involving belonging, transformation, repair, conservation, mobility, adaptability, roots and anchoring. The significance of voluntary endeavors as a phenomenon is also an important pillar in the project.

Galleri ROM wanted to illuminate the interesting and complex story and explore the Norwegian stave church pavilion in a contemporary context. ROM has engaged artists’ collective Bureau Detours (DK) and architectural company Gamle3Hus (N) who, in close collaboration with the pensioners from Orkdal, have created the project Little Norway showing at Gallery ROM during the Oslo Architecture Triennial 2016. Here fragments from the fascinating history of the pavilion are being staged.

The exhibition offers guided tours, lectures, workshops and a film program. You can learn more about repair and craftsmanship and even take part in restoring the pavilion, talk with the pensioners, artists and architects and participate in a dialogue on voluntary work, repair and belonging. We warmly welcome you to the opening of the exhibition on Thursday the 8th of September at 6pm at Gallery ROM, Maridalsveien 3, Oslo.

The exhibition Little Norway is the first part of the REPAIR program at Gallery ROM, which explores repair and belonging.

Etter 123 år vender stavkirkepaviljongen som representerte Norge på verdensutstillingen i Chicago i 1893 hjem. En gigantisk dugnadsinnsats fra en gjeng driftige pensjonister i Orkdal har gjort drømmer til virkelighet. Under Oslo Arkitekturtriennale 2016 viser Galleri ROM utstillingen Little Norway. Kunstnerkollektivet Bureau Detours (DK) og arkitektkontoret Gamle3Hus (N) har i samarbeid med pensjonistene fra Orkdal laget en sprek og engasjerende utstilling med utgangspunkt i stavkirkepaviljongen. Her smelter dugnad og entusiasme sammen med viktige spørsmål om å uttrykke, skape og gjenoppbygge tilhørighet.

På verdensutstillingen i Chicago i 1893 presenterte Norge seg med en modulbasert stavkirkeimitasjon tegnet av arkitekten Waldemar Hansteen. Paviljongen ble bygget på Strandheim Brug i Orkdal, ledet av industripioneren og arkitekten Christian Thams. Etter verdensutstillingen har paviljongen en historie som sommerhus for flere prominente eiere, før den i 1935 ble kjøpt av norskamerikaneren og norgesfantasten Isak Dahle. Rundt stavkirkepaviljongen bygde han opp museumsparken Little Norway for å formidle Norsk kultur til amerikanere. Det var lenge en populær attraksjon for norskamerikanere på leting etter egen forhistorie. Etter at Little Norway ble lagt ned, ble en redningsaksjon igangsatt fra Norge. Et lag med pensjonister ønsker å gjenreise paviljongen i Orkdal.

I 1970 fikk Olav Sigurd Kvaale i Orkdal et bilde av The Norway Pavilion i gave av sin onkel og får vite at hans bestefar skar ut inngangsportalen til paviljongen. 44 år senere drar Olav til for å besøke stavkirkepaviljongen i Little Norway, Wisconsin, som nå er nedlagt. Han får ideen om å hente den hjem til Orkdal, og mobiliserer venner og kjente og får kommunen med seg på prosjektet. I 2015 reiste pensjonistgjengen fra Orkdal til Wisconsin for å demontere hele paviljongen, pakke den i konteinere og sende den hjem. Sammen er de nå i gang med å restaurere bygningen og klargjøre den for gjenreisning.

Prosjektet er en spire som ble til virkelighet takket være en gigantisk dugnadsinnsats av ivrige pensjonister. Sett utenfra har prosjektet svært mange interessante sider som handler om tilhørighet, transformasjon, reparasjon, bevaring, mobilitet, tilpasningsdyktighet, røtter og forankring. Selve dugnaden som fenomen er også en viktig bærebjelke.

Galleri ROM ønsker å belyse den mangfoldige historien og utforske den norske stavkirkepaviljongen i en samtidskontekst. ROM har engasjert kunstnerkollektivet Bureau Detours (DK) og arkitektkontoret Gamle3Hus (N) som i tett samarbeid med pensjonistene fra Orkdal har laget prosjektet Little Norway som vises under Oslo Arkitekturtriennale. Her iscenesettes fragmenter fra paviljongen og dens fascinerende historie. Utstillingen byr på omvisninger, foredrag, workshops og filmprogram. Her kan man lære mer om reparasjon og håndverk, selv ta del i å restaurere paviljongen, snakke med dugnadsgjengen, kunstnere og arkitekter og være med i dialog om dugnad, reparasjon og tilhørighet.

Little Norway er første del av Galleri ROMs programserie REPAIR. 


REPAIR is a yearlong project at gallery ROM exploring how personal commitment and architectural, artistic and other creative and performing arts practices can influence the shaping of society and the physical world around us.

REPAIR will be an interdisciplinary platform where we look at repair as a mindset, a set of skills and as an aesthetic expression. The program will serve as a bridge between theory and practice and between material and non-material production. The main focus will be the process of change.

REPAIR is about seeing new opportunities in a world in transition through transformations, repairs, restorations, reconstructions and additions. This creates a present relevance based on and powered by something already existing. Our aim is not a quest for perfect, universal or eternal solutions, but exploring the possibilities and qualities in the continuation of something already excising. It is about reform, not about revolution.

REPAIR is also about finding inspiration and acquiring new skills to enable participation in the change process. Through tangible and imaginative ideas, workings and thoughts we want to create engagement, action and knowledge for change. We believe it is possible to draw complicated problems in a positive direction by simple means.

During the project period, the audience will meet REPAIR at various levels, from the abstract and intangible to the embodied, concrete and earthbound. The different parts will overlap and complement each other. Stories about Repair will be revealed, displayed and performed in exhibitions, workshops, talks, films, publications and dialogues between artists, architects, designers and other relevant participants. The shaping of the project will be an inclusive process involving a participating audience. All the different projects will attempt to explore and connect different perspectives, from the smallest to the largest. This elevation, where perspectives are illuminated from micro to macro, will reflect change processes at various levels.

The first project in the REPAIR series is Little Norway that is part of the Oslo Architecture Triennale showing at galleri ROM 8th September – 16th October 2016. The following project is Potential that is a part of the Oslo Drawing Biennal 2016 – Skissen.


Ola Sendstad is an architect, cultural conservationist and curator. His work ranges from mission-based building transformations to exploratory installation and curating projects. As the CEO of the Norwegian Lighthouse History association Sendstad promotes preservation and revitalization of Norwegian lighthouses. As curator of public art, he explores artistic expression relevant to site-specific history and identity. Sendstad is also the initiator and editor of the architectural and cultural heritage journal Flettverk.

Eva Bakkeslett is an artist, filmmaker, curator and gentle activist who explore the potential for social change through gentle actions and subtle mind‐shifts. Her socially engaged practice often combines film, participatory events and workshops. She co-curated the legendary art and ecology happening Gentle Actions in Oslo in 2011.

REPAIR is produced by Henrik Minassian, director at galleri ROM.


  1. Sherry Albrecht
    March 18, 2017

    I have just recently returned to Wisconsin and learned of Little Norway’s closing. I can’t begin to express how exciting it is to see the love and care given to the Norway Building. As a little girl I would always look forward to taking that long trip to Little Norway to see all the beautiful clothes, buildings and of course the Norway Building at Little Norway. I wanted nothing more than to have those clothes and paint the designs in my house. I am grateful I got to visit Little Norway one last time with my husband who emigrated to Wisconsin from England. He fell in love with the place too. Maybe someday we’ll get to see the Norway’s Building’s new home. Thank you so much for saving it for future generations and little girls with big imaginations to enjoy for years to come. 🙂

    • Eva Bakkeslett
      May 11, 2017

      Sorry for my late reply! Thank you for sharing your story. It is a wonderful project that the pensioners in Orkdal have all the honour for initiation. Come to the opening of the pavilion on the 9th of September in Orkdal:)


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