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Snøhetta Designs The Arc – a Visitor Center for Arctic Preservation Storage in Svalbard

Oct 31, 2019

In Longyearbyen, Svalbard, 78° north of the Earth’s equator, Snøhetta 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.

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.

The architecture divides the visitor center into two separate volumes; the entrance building and the exhibition building. The entrance building contains visitor functions such as lobby, ticketing, wardrobe and a café, as well as production facilities for the Arctic World Archive and technical rooms. 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.

The Arc 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. 

Snøhetta Designs The Arc – a Visitor Center for Arctic Preservation Storage in Svalbard