Once upon a time…a new museum dedicated to Hans Christian Andersen opened in Denmark, and it captured the charm, romanticism, and playful imagination of the beloved author.
The H.C. Andersen House, now open to the public on a limited basis, comprises 18,000 square feet of immersive, artist-designed galleries, as well as a café and shop. It’s located in Anderson’s hometown of Odense behind a series of quaint yellow buildings that previously housed an older, humbler version of the museum. In true Andersen fashion, the museum only reveals its extravagance once you’re inside.
Designed by architect Kengo Kuma, whose firm was also responsible for the Olympic stadium for the Tokyo 2020 games, the Danish structure was inspired by Andersen’s 1835 story The Tinderbox. In the text, a soldier is invited inside a deceptively hollow tree and finds that it opens into three increasingly large chambers underground.
The Andersen House pulls off a similar trick, with three wooden pavilions that give way to a sprawling underground network. “The idea behind the architectural design resembled Andersen’s method, where a small world suddenly expands to a bigger universe,” Kuma recently told dezeen.
Outside, Kuma’s building is accompanied by a series of curling hedges and winding pathways lined with sculptures. From above, the whole thing looks like a maze.
The subterranean levels contain a series of interactive exhibits, most of which were designed by artists, including paper sculptor Veronica Hodges, puppet maker Andy Gent, and writer Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket). Some displays are dedicated to Andersen’s best-known fairy tales, while others are focused on the author himself, giving gallery-goers a peek into the life behind the many stories embedded in the collective western consciousness. Visitors will also “hear” from a number of characters from the Andersen universe, including the Little Mermaid and the Ugly Duckling, in audio tracks throughout.
“We threw out the old museum rules,” the museum’s creative director Henrik Lübker told CNN Traveler. “This museum had to inhabit Andersen. His work impacted everything from how you navigate the space to how we use text and objects.”
See more pictures of the H.C. Andersen House below.