Kjemikerens død [The Death of the Chemist] (23 – 26 May 2016)
  • Anna Ulrikke Andersen | Gamle Kjemi, Gløshaugen
    Kunstarken, Trondheim Academy of fine Arts
    NTNU, Trondheim, Norway

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  • Kjemikerens død [The Death of the Chemist] (23 – 26 May 2016)
  • Anna Ulrikke Andersen | Gamle Kjemi, Gløshaugen
    Kunstarken, Trondheim Academy of fine Arts
    NTNU, Trondheim, Norway
  • “With caretaker Stig Pallesen, I visited the building, recording our conversation with radio-mics. We wander through hallways, staircases, attics and offices, uncertain as to exactly where the chemist died, 90 years prior. When I returned, time had passed. The snow was gone, replaced by green grass and blooming trees and flowers. With me, I had the film The Death of the Chemist (2016) that was to be installed in the building.”

    From The Death of the Chemist: Installation

    The Death of the Chemist: Installation: one films, one installation, one screening, one talk, one leaflet and two birthdays.

    2 February 1926 the 28-year-old doctor of chemistry Christian Wilhelm Norberg-Schulz was conducting an experiment at the chemistry building of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (Gamle Kjemi, NTNU), when he fell through a glass window and died, leaving his pregnant wife Lalla behind. As a result, his son Christian, who later was to become one of the most important architectural thinkers of the 20th century, never met his father.

    90 years after the accident, to the day, I visited the old chemistry building with caretakers Stig Pallesen and Raymond Sterten. Trying to find out where the accident could have taken place, our visit was recorded, which resulted in the film The Death of the Chemist (Andersen, 2016). 90 years after Norberg-Schulz`s was born, 23 May 2016, the film was installed in a staircase in the building. Opening at 12:00, this event was followed by a screening and talk at Kunstarken, Kunstakademiet Trondheim/NTNU 18:00. The finale of the project was my departure from Trondheim, 26 May: my very own 28th birthday. 

    The installation formed an integral part of my PhD thesis in Architectural Design at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, which focuses on the window in the life and theory of Norberg-Schulz, adopting a practice-led research methodology of filmmaking, The Death of the Chemist asks questions about what it means to be at the place where something happened, on the anniversary of that very event.


    Dr Anna Ulrikke Andersen is a Norwegian filmmaker and architectural historian. As a student on the MA Architectural History, she partook on the module Theorizing Practices / Practicing Theories with professor Jane Rendell, and began exploring how film could be used to write architectural history with a particular focus on windows. She continued exploring this interest and developing this method in her PhD in Architecture at the Bartlett School of Architecture. Also supervised by Rendell, she contributed to the field of practice-led research methodology with her genre invention: the fenestral essay film. 

    Her research has been presented at institutions such as the 2014 Venice Biennale, Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Oxford University and Universidad Piloto de Colombia, and she has been published in Architectural Research Quarterly. Her films have been shown at the Royal Academy of Arts London, the 2017 Essay film Festival, the Arctic Moving Image and Film Festival and Trondheim Academy of Fine Arts/NTNU. She is the founder of the Bartlett Film+Place+Architecture Doctoral Network, and in 2017 she was awarded an artist residency from the Utzon Foundation and the Danish Cultural Fund to work and live in Jørn Utzon’s villa Can Lis, Majorca. With the support of Viken Filmsenter, Norway, she is a 2018/2019 Film Study Center Harvard Fellow, where she is using film to write an architectural history of chronic illness.


    The Death of the Chemist: Installation (2016) springs from a longstanding interest in Jane Rendell`s method of site-writing and her definition of critical spatial practice.   She considers the critical practices in spatial, temporal and social ways, which I build upon as I engage with the architectural history of the building in question. I consider the story about the chemist`s death in a spatial way, where finding the exact location of the accident is of importance. For Rendell ‘writing a site’ can ‘challenge criticism as a static point of view, located in the here and now.’  In my work, the difficulties I face when encountering archival material and building, as I attempt to find the exact location of the accident, is emphasised in other to questions the positionality of the historian. The spaces where encounters with works take place, and the way we talk about them, are of critical potential to Rendell, as she argues how the ‘critic encounters with the work influences the process of criticism.’ Our movement through the building, captured by audio and reintroduced into the building, depicts a historian who faces uncertainty. The project spans from 2 February 1926 to 23 May 1926, and again 2 February 2016 and 23-26 May 2016, accentuating the temporalities at play in history: the way I follow and come after Norberg-Schulz, or the way he never met his father, who died month before he was born. 

    Beyond the specific work in question, I have specifically explored the critical and spatial potential of the essay form in film and writing through a focus on the key terms framing, mobility and self-reflection, in my genre invention the fenestral essay film. 


    1. Jane Rendell, ‘A Place Between Art, Architecture and Critical Theory’, Proceedings to Place and Location (Tallinn, Estonia, 2003) 221-33; Jane Rendell, Site-Writing: the architecture of art criticism (London: I.B. Tauris, 2010) 193.

    2. Jane Rendell, Art and Architecture: a place between (London: I.B. Tauris, 2006). 192.

    3. Rendell, Site-Writing, 18. 

    4. Rendell, Site-Writing, 12. 

    5. Anna Ulrikke Andersen, ‘Ten Windows Following Christian Norberg-Schulz: framing, mobility and self-reflection explored through the fenestral essay film’, PhD Thesis in Architectural Design, the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, 2018. 

    Architectural History, Christian Norberg-Schulz, Filmmaking, Essay film, Installation, Trondheim, Norway


    Rainer Maria Rilke. Les Fenêtres. Dix poèmes de Rainer Maria Rilke illustrés de dix eaux-fortes par Baladine. (Paris, Officina Sanctandreana, 1927)
    A cycle of 10 poems on windows, seen as both separating and uniting the interior and exterior, life and death. 

    Windows (1974), directed by Peter Greenaway.
    A film about people who died falling out of windows. 

    Diana Fuss, The Sense of an Interior: Four Writers and the Rooms that Shaped Them (New York: Routledge, 2004).
    Book, architectural history, about the interior life of four authors living with disabilities, seen through the architectural interiors where they lived. 

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