© Sverre Hjørnevik
FROM ASHES TO ART NOUVEAU
During the early hours of 23 January 1904 a terrible fire raged through Ålesund. In the space of 16 hours, 850 houses burned to the ground, and ten thousand people were left homeless.
Miraculously only one person died as a result of the fire. The town was quickly rebuilt in the period from 1904-1907. Every year, at quarter past two in the morning on 23 January, town fire enthusiasts assemble from far and near to follow the fire’s footsteps through the town.
The massive amount of help that came from all over the world once the devastation of the fire in Ålesund in 1904 became known was impressive. On 26 January, only three days after the fire, the first German ships came with emergency assistance, at the instigation of Kaiser Wilhelm II. The reconstruction of the town took place at a time of economic depression and extensive unemployment in Norway and craftsmen and architects streamed to Ålesund in the hope of finding work. Many of them were internationally orientated through their training, practice and study tours.
The buildings are decorated with towers, turrets and imaginative and colourful ornaments. Taking a walk, look at all parts of the buildings - that's when you will notice all the small details which make these houses so beautiful. Ålesund is renowned both nationally and internationally for its architecture, and is a member of "Rèseau Art Nouveau Network", a European network of Art Nouveau cities, including among others Glasgow, Barcelona and Vienna.
Today, the historical buildings are housing a charming town with exciting cafeterias and restaurants, shops, galleries and a different accomodational opportunities. A wide selection of shops and galleries make even shopping enthusiasts feel at home. Along the picturesque fishing harbour of Brosundet lie sea houses which originally were used for receiving and preparing of fish. Today they are housing hotels, offices and shops. If you are lucky, you might also have the opportunity to buy shrimps directly from a local fisherman? Take the trip ut the 418 steps to the mountain Aksla - the reward will be panoramic view of the coast, fjords and mountains surrounding the city.
Lift your gaze while you explore the town and you will discover the many and varied expressions of Art Nouveau. You will find elements of German Art Nouveau/jugendstil with elegant organic lines and asymmetry, hewn stone buildings inspired by American architecture and National Romantic details from the architecture of the stave churches.
The Art Nouveau town of Ålesund could be taken right out of a fairy tale. If you look up as you explore the town, you will discover an abundance of imaginative ornamentation on the fronts of the buildings. Walk up the 418 steps to the top of Mount Aksla and you will be rewarded by unforgettable panoramic views!