Merzbau, second Merzbau, Lysaker, Norway, 1937 - 1940.

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Schwitters built a new Merzbau near to the house at Fagerhoyvien 22, in Lysaker (Oslo),
where he lived.

Like the Hanover Merzbau, the Lysaker "Haus am Bakken" or house on the slope, as Schwitters referred to his second Merzbau, is now destroyed. It perished without trace in a fire in 1951 and no photographs were apparently ever made of it. Our knowledge of it, therefore, is very sparse.

According to Schwitters' son, the work was planned out from the start (unlike the Hanover Merzbau), and it seems in fact to have been an attempt to recreate something close in effect to the later sections of the Hanover structure.

It was a two-storeyed building, approximately 15 by 16,5 ft. (4.5 x 5 m) in size, set against the hillside down from Schwitters' house, the pitch of the roof following that of the hillside, so that the upper storey sloped from around 18 1/2 ft. (5.6 m) at the side nearer the house to around 13 ft. (4.0 m) at the far side.

The upper storey was a wood-frame construction "built with my own hands, every bit of it," Schwitters wrote; "I carried the lumber, sawed it to specifications, and did all the carpentry." It was intended to be transportable, in case he had to move again, and was painted in camouflage and covered with mud and pine-needles because he did not have a building permit, and it could be seen from the Lysaker police station down the hill.
The lower storey was built from stones unearthed in clearing the site, and since the whole structure nestled quite closely into the slope, half of this storey was actually underground. (The plan shown here is based on the recollections of Ernst Schwitters, who encouraged his father to begin this work, and helped him in its construction.)

The Lysaker building was begun in 1937 and the basic structure finished by January 1938. The work on the interior then started. It was all roughly laid out by mid May,' and continued for the next two years. But during that time, Schwitters also built a curving staircase that led down to the basement level, disappearing underneath the centrally placed sculpture as it did so, and began to plan the disposition of the lower space. So, given the fact that he had only his son to help him, his estimate was not that far wrong.

In April 1940, Schwitters had only got as far as leveling the stone and earth floor of the lower level, prior to beginning construction there, when the German invasion of Norway put an end to his plans. Schwitters was loath to have to move again, and (according to his son) his instinctive wish was just "to lie down and die."' But he did leave Lysaker, along with his son and his son's wife, missing capture by only three days.

1. House, Lysaker, Still from "The Schwitters Scandal", BBC documentary 1995
2. Ruins of the summer house/Merzbau in the garden. Still from "The Schwitters Scandal", BBC documentary 1995
3. Floorplan of the house and garden in Lysaker
4. Floor plan of Merzbau II.
5. Map of Lysaker/Oslo, 2008