Scandinavian MANScandinavian MANScandinavian MAN
Style, innovation & equality

Snøhetta designs The Arc — a visitor center 78° north of the Earth’s equator for Arctic preservation storage in Svalbard

And they’ve also won the competition for a new Maritime Center in Esbjerg, Denmark, named Lanternen.


In Longyearbyen, Svalbard, the Norwegian architecture firm has designed a visitor center for Arctic preservation storage called The Arc, referencing its location in the Arctic and its function as an archive for world memory. Commissioned by Arctic Memory AS, the visitor center will showcase content from the Svalbard Global Seed Vault — the world's largest secure seed storage, and the Arctic World Archive — a vault that aims to preserve the world's digital heritage.

The architecture divides the visitor center into two separate volumes; the entrance building and the exhibition building. The entrance building contains visitor functions, including a café, as well as production facilities for the Arctic World Archive. A structural frame of cross laminated timber in combination with stiffening wall discs in solid wood forms a rectangular building volume that rests on pile foundations in the bedrock. The building is suspended off the ground to prevent heating of permafrost and accumulation of snow. The entrance building is clad with burnt wood and dark glass panels, while the interiors consist of exposed wood elements. Roof areas are designed to accommodate solar panels for harvesting solar energy.

In collaboration with the Norwegian Natural History Museum, the visitor center will further provide its audience with insights into how the Svalbard Archipelago's unique geology has transformed over millions of years. It aims to educate visitors and inspire innovative preservation solutions for the world’s food and digital resources. It further emphasizes the value of the unique climatic and political stability one finds beyond the Arctic Circle, in the permafrost of Svalbard, serving as a reminder of how we should take care of the world’s resources for future generations to come.

For the new Maritime Center in Esbjerg, Snøhetta were inspired by the geometry and craftmanship of boats. The design developed together with WERK Arkitekter, pays homage to the maritime tradition and the result is a center containing multiple water-sport clubs, boat storage, training facilities, a large workshop, and social functions.

The heart of the project is a lifted terrace linked to the first floor, protected from the harsh climate. The proposed center reinforces the promenade along the shore and creates a place for social and physical activities linked to the sea.