Snøhetta, landscape and architecture working together

Young and forward-thinking,  Snøhetta has no set aesthetic and an always changing language that is understandable at every latitude, as it is inspired by the land.

There’s a mountain in Norway named Snøhetta. It’s neither the highest of the country nor the most important. But, according to Craig Dykers, founding partner of the eponymous architecture firm, it is the most beautiful, as to him it is not the grandeur that matters, but the meaning – Viking legend has it that the mountain hosted the Valhalla – and the location, at the very heart of the country.

Translating those beliefs in architecture made of a six architects’ studio above an Oslo beer hall the reason for Norway’s architectural boom. Snøhetta’s history and vision are so inspiring that one can’t help but sympathize.

They believe in sharing, and today more than ever, this means a lot: like an architectural commune with more than 240 employees, at  Snøhetta lunch is consumed altogether, in the firm’s various branches around the world where the different spaces have no doors.

Bibliotheca Alexandrina – Egypt

Completed in 2001, in the city founded by Alexander the Great to be the cradle of Hellenic culture, where Cleopatra won Caesar’s heart, as per magnificence Snøhetta’s Bibliotheca Alexandrina has nothing to envy to the original ancient wonder.

Capable of containing four million books, the gigantic sloped disk features a stone facade carved in 120 different languages and has been the firm’s first project, earning them international acclaim and respect.

Biblioteca Alexandrina – Courtesy of Snøhetta

Central Library – Calgary

When the project is Snøhetta, sometimes the building is connected to the land in a social manner, functioning as a bridge between different parts of the city.

This is the case of the Central Library that connects downtown Calgary to the East Village, intercepting a light rail transit line: few years after the completion of their Egyptian masterpiece, Snøhetta return to the topic with a library that is intuitive and functional, with a long, interesting curving form and an almond-shaped plant.

Calgary Central Library by Snøhetta - Courtesy of Snøhetta
Calgary Central Library – Courtesy of Snøhetta

Opera House – Norway

When completed in 2008, the Oslo Opera House was an instant hit: panoramic views of the surroundings, a roof that angles to the ground, stunning white Carrara marble, and several international awards for the project that established a new era for architecture in Norway.

Oslo Opera House – Courtesy of Snøhetta

Under Restaurant – Norway

Try to book a table at Europe’s first underwater restaurant, if you can: Under’s cuisine, Michelin star for 2020, is second only to its setting.

The dramatic exterior is nothing but a 34 mt long monolithic concrete tube that dives into the ocean, as a metaphor of a journey from the land to the sea: natural light penetrates the water and reaches the restaurant’s interior, five and a half meters below the surface, creating a suggestive, unique atmosphere.

Under Restaurant by Snohetta - © Ivar Kvaal
Under Restaurant – © Ivar Kvaal

Preserving the past, planning a bright future

Snøhetta is currently working on some quite incredible stuff, including the Shanghai Grand Opera House and Svart, the world’s first energy-positive hotel. 

Located in the permafrost, on the remote island of Svalbard, the Arc will be a visitor center for Arctic Preservation Storage and one of the most significant  Snøhetta’s dialogue with the land.

Inside the dramatic white vault, a digital archive will store and exhibit timeless treasures: from the Vatican’s 1500 years old manuscripts to the world’s largest collection of seeds, to Edward Munch’s art collection, to film clips of Pelè playing football.

Nothing but a heritage for mankind safeguarded at the end of the world.


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