NORWAY- W.H.C. PAPER ENGLISH VERSION. Since the last article in a Norwegian national newspaper – Vårt Land
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Rock, paper, structures
By pure chance, Italian artist Paolo Spalluto discovered a peculiar, ancient Norwegian house of worship. The discovery set the artist off in a new direction.
p. 20: This church is made of paper ,This is Hop church, built from paper in 1796. It has inspired Paolo Spalluto to start building out ofpaper.
p.21 – illustration text: This is what the paper buildings looked like, according to Bergen based artist Johan Dreier.The church and the Wernersholm mansion were both made of paper mache. Watercolor by Johan F.L.Dreier – Photo: The Picture Collection, University of Bergen
The powerful work light casts long shadows on the walls.
This room has been Paolo Spalluto’s workplace this autumn.
The artist has constructed «The Paper Room» in what is to become a guest house for artists at Tjøme in Vestfold county. The walls are covered in paper mache.
On the largest wall, the artist is currently working on a paper mosaic. By the door, there’s a brick wall made of paper bricks. “ This is stronger than wood,” Spalluto says, lifting a paper brick through which he then saws to demonstrate the strength of the material.
Tired. The winter air comes drifting in over the small municipality of Tjøme in Vestfold county.
Here, at Gamle Ormelet Art Centre, Spalluto has spent a long time working on his remarkable art project. Now he can see the end of it. «I hope nobody asks me to build any more walls, because I’m tired» he says, smiling.  Little did he know, a few years ago, when he first started doing research on paper to help a fellow artist, that he would be spending so much time on an art project in southern Norway. At first he fell in love with papier-mâché. Then, by chance, he discovered an online discourse about a church in Norway made from paper. None of Spalluto’s Norwegian connections had heard of it, so Spalluto embarked on a quest in history. He found the man, more than 200 years ago, who had buil the paper church: Civil servant Werner Hosewinckel Christie. It astonished Spalluto, that such a man and such a building could go unnoticed in Norway.
Genius? The church was erected on Christie’s estate, Wernersholm, at Hop in the town of Bergen. It was finalized in 1793, built by the civil servant’s own farm workers, designed by himself, inspired by the Pantheon and by St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The /p.22/
pp. 22, 23, 24 – Picture texts:
1. Paolo Spalluto’s “bricks” are cast in papier-mâché.
2. An old paper tobacco tin is now a part of the wall. Such tins allegedly inspired Werner Hosewinckel Christie to utilize papier-mâché as a building material.
3. The building blocks that Paolo Spalluto has made are plaster-like and very light.
4. The Italian also creates art from paper. This installation in a stepladder is displayed in Gamle
Ormelet. The new guesthouse at Gamle Ormelet Art Centre will consist of several studios that artists can stay in. Spalluto has created “the paper room”.
p. 22: octagonal temple of Pantheon was initially dedicated to all Gods, but turned into a church later on. It seems that the preacher’s son, Christie, had a fascination with churches, because he also owned another place of worship in the area. One annual service was held in the paper church; the
nd 2 Sunday after Trinitatis (Trinity Sunday). However, when Christie wanted his paper church to be turned into the Parish chuch, the Bishop said no. “One thing was its awkward location; inconvenient for the congregation as well as for the minister, additionally – the church did not accumulate a satisfactory revenue”, in other words; it was not profitable enough. Due to his experiments in unusual construction techniques, mr W.H. Christie was considered an oddity by his contemporaries. “Some people ask me if I’m going to build a church, too. But my main concern is telling the story.”  Paolo Spalluto, Italian artist
Paolo Spalluto 32 years of age, from Lecce in Italy. Currently living in Poland.
Versatile within several art forms. Spalluto has done work in theatres as a set designer, designer and photographer. Has spent the past few years working with papier-mâché.
“He was seen as crazy – like me. I would call him an unknown genius”, says Paolo Spalluto. Building a private church is original enough, but – from paper? And on top of it all; in the western part of Norway; by far the most rainy part. Although the weather did not stop him, it would prove a

Imported. Not only did Hosewinckel Christie build a church, he also built a large farmhouse from the same material on his property at Hop, situated in the district of Fana, a few kilometres outside Bergen centre. Where did he get the idea from? In the literature, the church is presented as his own invention, but it is most likely imported. Paiper-mâché was utilised for a number of purposes during this period of history. In Germany it was applied to both ornaments, sculptures as well as building material for small pavilions, minor building constructions and flooring. The substance can easily be moulded into looking like marble, which was an ideal at the time. In Norway, papier-mâché may well have been applied in the interiors of the manors, built by the Norwegian bourgeoisie. The inspiration came from Italy.
Tobacco Tins. On the wall in The Paper Room in Tjøme, Spalluto has glued yellowing newspapers to display which material is the dominating one in the room. The pages are from 1968-editions of the Larvik-based newspaper Østlandsposten, purchased in Tjøme. Among other things, there
are advertisements for the paint brand “Ekornit”, the “Raufoss” scooter and a comic strip of The Moomins. A tobacco tin is also to be found attached to the wall. It used to contain T.M.Nielsen & Son’s Mixture, produced in the family’s tobacco factory, est. 1855 in Larvik. “The tobacco tin tells its part of the story”, the artist explains. Christie was supposedly inspired to develop the paper pulp after having noticed the tobacco tins, which were made from paper, and it is said that the people who manufactured those tins provided the initial guidance for Christie. Before he settled down on the outskirts of Bergen, Hosewinckel Christie paid a visit to Great Britain. Paper pulp was patented there in 1772 and this is probably where this western Norwegian gained his knowledge about paper. Octagonal. The church became an attraction. Not only was it made from paper; but the octagonal shape was also extraordinary. The Dutch lieutenant commander Cornelius de Jung describes the construction in his travelogue from 1791-97: “It is not built in a poor taste and it is good-looking. The load-bearing structures are made of stone, but the church is covered in paper paste, inside and exterior. In each room of the Farmhouse, also made from paper paste, there is a large oven, and these ovens are literally from paper”, de Jong enters, seemingly impressed. The interiors of the ovens are, however, made of iron.
p. 23: Hosewinckel Christie claimed to the Dutch lieutenant commander, that the church could accommodate between 800 and 1,000 people. It had a gallery and Corinthian columns. They were crafted from wood, draped in leather and coated with paper. Even the art work in the church was made from paper: “Maria holding baby Jesus is an artwork from the Master’s hand…”. Other works, created by farmers “are more trite”. In the paper siding on the exterior, there were reliefs depicting biblical motifs.
Secret. Paolo Spalluto shows us the wooden moulds he has made for casting paper bricks. Last summer, he spent a long time finding the right formula. Inside a tent, he was mixing paper pulp, casting bricks and desiccating them. Ten different blends were tested before he found the right one. There was very little assistance to be gained from Werner Hosewinckel Christie. His blend was confidential. Well, not quite. We do know that it consisted of used paper, “to be soaked in white vitriol water (Zinc sulphate), lime, whey and egg white. The paste was then to be kneaded like a bread dough “which one may shape as one likes”. Spalluto did use egg white, but realised it
was not a good idea when fungus started appearing on the paper bricks. In the end he did find the solid material he was looking for, now containing lime and paper, two components also utilized by
Hosewinckel Christie. Christe took lime from his own limestone quarries. The product is a rough, plasterlike piece – which weighs next to nothing. And now for the production of paper bricks themselves. Making 300 bricks for one wall doesn’t sound too bad, but when everything must be done by hand, it’s a toil. “ It’s time-consuming and difficult. My back aches, my hands ache and my head too”, Paolo Spalluto says.
Sensation. Spalluto thinks his project has been an exciting, but expensive affair. Still, he’s eager to go hunting for more stories about papier-mâché.
– In Italy, artists are used to finding all the information they need in books. I had to find it elsewhere. It’s a tradition among Italian craftsmen to use papier-mâché made from special paper for sculptures whose heads and arms are made of bronze. Using old newspapers as feedstock – for a building material – is something new. Or something old.
Artist colleagues, media and University connections are now anticipating Spalluto’s discoveries from Norway. The 1st invitation to give a lecture on the topic has already arrived from the International Network of Paper Artists.
“Paper as a construction material is strong and light. I probably wouldn’t have built a church in Bergen from it, though.” Rolf Jacobsen, architect
– It’s my passion that has put me where I am today. It has taken me five years, but I needed time to learn as well as time to understand.
What has been the hardest part? Everything, according to the Italian. The result is a material that can be utilized for almost everything, apart from supporting structures. It can be applied even to the
exterior, he says, if it’s painted. The name that Spalluto has chosen for his “paperwork” pays tribute to church builder Werner Hosewinckel Christie by his initials: The WHC-technique.
– Some people ask me if I’m not going to build a church myself, or make business out of this, but my main focus has been on telling the story, says Paolo Spalluto.
Arte povre. Dorthe Endresen adorns a rice paper lamp shade with sheets from her great aunt’s collection of sheet music. Endresen is the owner of Gamle Ormelet Art Centre, and she’s involved in the concept of recycling, also in the arts. Arte povre – the penniless art, where old techniques and materials are recycled – is extensive in Paolo Spalluto‘s native Italy. When she was going to build a
new guest house for artists, it felt natural to invite him.
– He’s crazy enough to erect an entire church, she says.
Architect Roy Jacobsen is another recycler in the new building.
p. 24: He has used straw inside the walls for insulation. An outside layer of clay, a breathing substance, is then applied. Spalluto’s partner is also fascinated by paper as a building material.
– It’s strong, light and it can be recycled. But I’d probably not build a church in Bergen from it, Jacobsen says. Unknown story. How can it be, that the story of a paper church, erected by one of the most distinct civil servants in the Western part of Norway, is not more widely known?
When Paolo Spalluto entered the Regional State Archives in Bergen, they found it absurd that an Italian showed up to expose Norwegian history. At Hop, the former estate of Werner Hosewinckel Christie – today, a rustic residential area, Spalluto found a commemorative plaque of the man, inset in a stone wall. A manor still carries the estate name – Wernersholm – and the family tombs are nearby. It would appear, that Christie ended up in one of history’s grey areas; first in the shadow of his nephew, Wilhelm Frimann Koren Christie, who was present at the Constituent Assembly at Eidsvoll in 1814. Furthermore, the Wernersholm residence is not associated with the paper constructor, but with Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, who composed the lyrics for the Norwegian national anthem “Ja, vi elsker” here in 1858. A delegate to the constitutional convention and a poet have, in other words, taken quite a bit of the attention. Gone. Paolo Spalluto has not found even the slightest trace of the paper church at Hop. What happened, actually? The church was not easily maintained. Weather tore off parts of the roof and paper from the walls and caused stones to fall out. After Hosewinckel Christie passed away, it was left to crumble until the roof finally caved in. It was demolished in 1830, 37 years after its completion. The mansion, with “all of its cardboard ornamentation”, as one of the sources puts it, was not preserved either. Not a shred of paper was left. Sources: Arne Solli, historian at the University of Bergen, “Skrifter” #15, a publication by Bergen History Society, Norwegian churches, Paolo Spalluto and Odd Kvamme.
‘A genious’ Who was this man who built a church from paper? Werner Hosewinckel Christie (1746-1822) was an up-and-coming man. He grew up at Tysnes, in the south of the Hordaland region, but lived in Bergen at the end of the 1700s. Here, he started out being appointed as one of Norway’s four “stiftskonduktører”, i.e. cartographers, who were to draw maps for the recently established Norges Geografiske Oppmåling (NGO; the central institute for the charting of Norwegian territory, est. 1733). A skilled draughtsman. Christie studied Law at the University of Copenhagen, where he allegedly touched on other subjects as well. He was good at drawing, but had no training neither in mathematics nor surveying. That may explain why there are so few maps to be found from his hand. The fact, however, that a layman was given a position of civil servant reserved for engineers, indicates that he was well connected. Later on, he became a lawspeaker, and held both offices for a while. On top of that, he launched a mining operation. He was granted permission to mine marble from both Sunhordaland and Nordhordaland districts, and provided marble for the Royal Castle of Copenhagen, Christiansborg, and to The Marble Church in the same city. In addition, he extracted lime, which was used in his paper substance. A wire factory, however, failed to succeed. A trickster. – He was a professional civil servant, says Arne Solli, associate Professor at the University of Bergen. – He was undoubtedly skilled and did study building technology, but he was a trickster of the trade, since he lacked both architect- and engineer training, Solli says. One of Bergen’s great poets, Lyder Sagen, describes the paper constructor as “genious and talented”. Werner Hosewinckel Christie died a wealthy man.

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