Key Dates

1 February - Launch Deadline
7 March - Standard Deadline
25 July - Extended Deadline
9 August - Judging
21 August - Winners Announced

Image Credit : Gareth Gardner for Nissen Richards Studio




Project Overview

‘Upholding the Law: Magnus the Lawmender’s Law of the Land, 1274-2024’ is a refined, atmospheric and delicately-staged exhibition for The National Library of Norway, celebrating the 750th anniversary of the country’s 1274 ‘Law of the Land’. This momentous document - one of the most important in Norwegian history - laid the foundation for the Norwegian legal system and popular participation, effectively establishing the prerequisites for democracy.
With the Law of the Land, women gained inheritance rights for the first time; for example, the poor who couldn't feed themselves were no longer punished for stealing food. The Law of the Land also symbolises Norway's central role in political and intellectual Europe during the Middle Ages.

Project Commissioner

The National Library of Norway

Project Creator

Nissen Richards Studio


Nissen Richards Studio (Exhibition Design/Graphics)
Pippa Nissen - Director
Kate Coghlan - Designer
Grace Drennan - Design assistant
Freya Umataliev - Graphics
The Light Bureau - Exhibition Lighting Design
Studio ZNA - Lighting design in showcases
Tmrer Petter Halvorsen and Tmrer Totto Johansen - Contractor
Florea - Showcases
Konsis - Graphics Contractor

Project Brief

For the first time ever, exceptional handwritten documents such as the Gulatingsloven, Heimskringla, and some of the most beautiful examples of The Law of the Land would be accessible here after being preserved in foreign collections for centuries.

The client intended to contribute to making these documents part of Norway’s medieval history - and as important to the nation’s sense of self-understanding as Viking ships and burial mounds. The exhibition needed to open up a narrative about Norway as a medium-sized medieval kingdom that produced one of the most forward-thinking legislative works in Europe.
The design team's brief was to communicate clearly the historical significance of these documents and bring them to life for a modern-day audience with flair and imagination, as well as incorporate a strong, sustainable approach.

Project Need

Nissen Richards Studio’s approach to the design, developed following their appointment to the project in late 2022, was to create an immersive atmosphere that would permit visitors to feel as if they were almost walking inside these incredible and hugely historically significant books.
Visual playfulness would ensure a sense of wonder, based on the idea that laws are made up of words that gather strength as they are made first into pages and then into books, with structures and society arising directly from these. Individual words are treated as the central tenet of the design concept – as they are of the law.

The exhibition is located in a predominantly dark space, with light used theatrically to highlight its structures, showcases, and objects. Words and pages are displayed at different scales and in translucent or overlapping forms.

Design Challenge

Nissen Richards Studio considered how they could bring these texts to life via the design treatment, especially as the original artefacts are flat, almost 2D items. The team created drama by designing columns around the show’s star books as the exhibition’s centrepiece, symbolizing columns of knowledge, with stacks of seemingly floating pages arranged as if they are falling leaves of knowledge.

Paper and the act of writing were investigated as part of the exhibition’s visual themes, which consider material textures, highlighting and correcting, typographic styles and illustration. Manuscripts and the text layout, including proportion, indentation, alignment, hand scribing and paper types and tones, were all sources for the exhibition’s innovative and expressive layout and graphic design, which also fell under the Nissen Richards Studio remit.
Gauze ‘pages’ are angled through the space by each showcase, whilst contemporary angled boards, with a sharp and unique colour edge according to their location in one of the six different thematic sections of the show, are sited around the perimeter.


This project exemplifies Nissen Richards Studio’s approach to sustainability in exhibition design:
On the one hand, high-quality and robust elements are created to last a long time, with built-in adaptability for re-use in future exhibitions. Temporary elements, meanwhile, lean heavily towards the digital and the graphic, which, together with lighting design, form key elements that are highly effective but produce very little waste.
Because of the preciousness of the works on show, showcases were designed by Nissen Richards Studio with ultra-high-security credentials and the very highest conservation standards. They were also designed with future-facing flexibility so that the investment in the structures can be spread over the coming years.
The showcases feature illuminated and angled labels for maximum accessibility and are lined in a luxurious fabric in deep jewel tones. Visitors will not overshadow the labels when looking at the books, nor does the text interfere with the experience. The new label-holders were retrofitted onto their existing cases, too, so that they feel part of the same family of furniture. The lighting inside enabled a very careful focus around the books – to feel as if they were floating - with labels inside the cases that could also be illuminated.
The large gesture moments in the show are made using banners, with the gauze pages suspended on strings like puppets. The show’s strong atmosphere is mostly created therefore through the use of light and graphic print.

Open to all international projects this award celebrates innovative and creative building interiors, with consideration given to space creation and planning, furnishings, finishes, aesthetic presentation and functionality. Consideration also given to space allocation, traffic flow, building services, lighting, fixtures, flooring, colours, furnishings and surface finishes.  

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