A large fire in 1904 transformed the small town of Ålesund , which was before then made up of traditional wooden buildings, into a town of stone and brick houses inspired by Art Nouveau, or Jugendstil.
Various Norwegian artisans and architects influenced by European architecture, especially German, came to the town to take part in its reconstruction. Regulations that all the buildings had to be made from brick or stone meant that the new town was built in a unique architectural style and an important series of over 320 Art Nouveau houses were constructed in its small historical centre.
The Jugendstil Centre is particularly concerned with promoting the town's heritage. It is housed in a building based on traditional Norwegian architectural models built by Hagbarth Schytte-Berg between 1905 and 1907 and known as the Apotekergarden, because of the chemist's shop that used to be located on the ground floor, the Svaneapoteket (Swan Pharmacy).