The Printed and the Built

The National Museum – Architecture

“We live and move and have our being in print” proclaimed the English writer Abraham Howard in 1843. The statement testifies to the period’s extraordinary growth in publications: newspapers, journals, and illustrated magazines addressing an entirely new readership.

Architecture formed a central part of this new publication culture. The illustrated press was full to the brim of architectural images: buildings, cities, ancient monuments and modern projects.

Like most other European countries, Norway was part of this development. On the pages of Skilling-Magazin, Illustreret Nyhedsblad, Norsk Folkeblad, and Ny Illustreret Tidende, the readers could follow road- and railway projects, urban growth and industrial developments, monuments and institutions from all over the country – even around the world. The press also took a lively interest in the housing question, be it tenements along Karl Johan, rural dwellings, or workers’ housing. New and old dwelling types were shown in beautiful, detailed wood engravings, often accompanied by critical debate and commentary.

This mini-exhibition shows highlights from the nineteenth century illustrated press. It is a material full of surprises, challenging the standard accounts of architectural history and enriching our understanding of nineteenth century architecture and urbanism.

Xylography – the first architectural mass medium

A key factor in the nineteenth century image revolution was the xylography technique. Unlike traditional woodcut, this new form of wood engraving applied very fine tools to the end-grain of hardwood. The result was extremely detailed images and print blocks that were durable enough to allow large runs. Each print block was small; larger images were made up of many blocks clamped together. Assembled print blocks could be reproduced as stereotypes, a technique that allowed for a lively circulation of images across Europe and the USA.


The exhibition is made by master students at The Oslo School of Architecture and Design as part of the research project The Printed and the Built; a collaboration between AHO, UiO, The National Museum, financed by the Norwegian Research Council. Alvar Aronija, Agnete Winsnes Astrup, Palak Dudani, Alexia Kondyliou, Stian Opsal, Fredrik Rognerud, Nikolai Lieblein Røsæg, Yile Xu. Led by Mari Hvattum.


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