the arc by snøhetta is a visitor center for arctic preservation in svalbard

conceived for a site on norway‘s svalbard archipelago, snøhetta has designed ‘the arc’ – a visitor center for arctic preservation storage. commissioned by arctic memory AS, this new building will host exhibitions in which audiences can gain insight into the prudent conservation solutions that are being implemented within the arctic circle. given its political stability and location 78° north of the earth’s equator, svalbard is home to the world’s largest secure seed storage and the arctic world archive, making the modest landmass extremely valuable for future generations.

the arc by snøhetta is a visitor center for arctic preservation storage in svalbard designboom

image © snøhetta and plomp

 

 

the arc – which is aptly named for its location – is composed of two volumes. firstly, the entrance building, which accommodates the lobby, ticketing, cloakroom and a café, as well as production facilities for the arctic world archive and technical rooms. marking a much smaller intervention to the main exhibition building, snøhetta has designed this structure with charred wood and dark glass panel cladding, effectively blending the architecture into the scenic backdrop.

the arc by snøhetta is a visitor center for arctic preservation storage in svalbard designboom

image © snøhetta and plomp

 

 

inside, the interior of the entrance building is characterized by exposed wood elements that hint to the structural frame of cross laminated timber. with due consideration to the location, the volume is also raised from the ground to prevent the heating of svalbard’s permafrost and the accumulation of snow. additionally, the roof features space for solar panels to make the most of the arctic summer sun.

the arc by snøhetta is a visitor center for arctic preservation storage in svalbard designboom

image © snøhetta and plomp

 

 

the exhibition building stands as the focal point of the project. in contrast to the entrance in both size and material, this volume intends to create a unique and ‘otherworldly’ architectural expression. evoking the idea of either a man-made monolith or an organic formation rising from the ground, this building is designed to offer visitors with a memorable experience as they journey from the small and stoic entrance through a glass access bridge before entering into the towering exhibition space.

the arc by snøhetta is a visitor center for arctic preservation storage in svalbard designboom

image © snøhetta and plomp

 

 

upon entering the exhibition space, visitors are met by the dramatic vertical vault, which hosts both permanent and temporary works. from the floorboards at ground level, the content which is preserved inside the arctic world archive and the svalbard global seed vault can be viewed via wall projections, VR experiences and other physical and digital elements that have been developed in close collaboration with storytelling agency tellart. these include edvard munch’s art collection and the vatican’s 1 500-year-old manuscripts, to film clips of the brazilian football player pelé and the largest collection of the world’s seeds.

the arc by snøhetta is a visitor center for arctic preservation storage in svalbard designboom

image © snøhetta and plomp

 

 

maintained at 4°C, the atmosphere within the vault is meticulously created to give a sense of being inside one of the real vaults. together with the vast height of the volume, this space elicits the notion of being in another time or another place. within the main volume lies a conditioned auditorium dubbed the ‘ceremony room’. lined in a warm timber finish, this part of the project can be used both for digital projections, deposit ceremonies for the vaults, lectures and talks, as well as for individual contemplation and reflection.

the arc by snøhetta is a visitor center for arctic preservation storage in svalbard designboom

image © snøhetta and plomp

 

 

at the heart of the ceremony room is a large deciduous tree. as a symbol of the earth and its nature, the tree represents the vegetation that has previously grown on svalbard, and that may do again if global temperatures continue to rise at the current rate of carbon emissions. in essence, the tree, and the arc as a whole, intends to educate and inspire visitors to call to action the vital preservation of our natural environment for future generations.

the arc by snøhetta is a visitor center for arctic preservation storage in svalbard designboom

image © snøhetta and plomp

the arc by snøhetta is a visitor center for arctic preservation storage in svalbard designboom

image © snøhetta

the arc by snøhetta is a visitor center for arctic preservation storage in svalbard designboom

image © snøhetta

the arc by snøhetta is a visitor center for arctic preservation storage in svalbard designboom

image © snøhetta and plomp

 

 

project info:

 

project name: the arc

location: longyearbyen, svalbard

architect: snøhetta

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