Henning Larsen envisions Arctic University Museum of Norway as a glowing beacon

Henning Larsen’s design for new Arctic University Museum of Norway, in the island city of Tromsø, features four translucent buildings that glow from inside at twilight.

by Zohra Khan Published on : Mar 10, 2020

Henning Larsen recently revealed the design of Arctic University Museum of Norway in the Norwegian island city of Tromsø, which is famed for viewing the Northern Lights. Located just southwest of the city centre, the proposal by the Scandinavian firm demonstrates a ‘glowing beacon’ that creates a new cultural path, drawing visitors from the town to the sea.

 The Arctic University Museum of Norway by Henning Larsen is envisioned like a glowing beacon for the island city of Tromsø | Arctic University Museum of Norway | Henning Larsen | STIRworld
The Arctic University Museum of Norway by Henning Larsen is envisioned like a glowing beacon for the island city of TromsøImage Credit: Courtesy of Henning Larsen

Four translucent masses - taking up an area of 19,700 sqm – make up for the new museum situated next to the existing Tromsø Center for Contemporary Art. The building has been designed to house university’s cultural artefacts and natural history archives – the collections that have exceeded their current homes.

Each of the four masses lie on a solid slate surface wedged in the craggy terrain of the site. The building facades are composed of cassette-like recurring modules that appear milky in the daytime but as light descends the horizon, they glow from the inside.

  • Programmatic massing | Arctic University Museum of Norway | Henning Larsen | STIRworld
    Programmatic massing Image Credit: Courtesy of Henning Larsen
  • Building entry points | Arctic University Museum of Norway | Henning Larsen | STIRworld
    Building entry points Image Credit: Courtesy of Henning Larsen
  • Site circulation | Arctic University Museum of Norway | Henning Larsen | STIRworld
    Site circulation Image Credit: Courtesy of Henning Larsen
  • Views diagram | Arctic University Museum of Norway | Henning Larsen | STIRworld
    Views diagram Image Credit: Courtesy of Henning Larsen
  •  Landscape diagram | Arctic University Museum of Norway | Henning Larsen | STIRworld
    Landscape diagramImage Credit: Courtesy of Henning Larsen

“These delicate, glowing masses atop the slate base reference the indigenous Saami’s lávvu homes, whose canvas walls radiate light on the frozen winter earth,” says a statement by the firm Henning Larsen.

One of the striking spaces of the design is the largest exhibition hall that displays a mammoth blue whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling. The visitors can view the sculpture from the floor below, or the corridor and staircase surrounding the space. Additional spaces other than the conventional museum facilities within the building include a 200-capacity auditorium and various study rooms.

 A suspended blue whale skeleton is displayed in the largest exhibition hall  | Arctic University Museum of Norway | Henning Larsen | STIRworld
A suspended blue whale skeleton is displayed in the largest exhibition hall Image Credit: Courtesy of Henning Larsen

The material palette is kept in contrast to the climate of Tromsø, which during peak winter season does not witness any daylight. The museum complex features soft wooden textures and slate floors, compared to the saturated shades of blue that characterise the context.

The building seen from one of the connecting bridges | Arctic University Museum of Norway | Henning Larsen | STIRworld
The building seen from one of the connecting bridges Image Credit: Courtesy of Henning Larsen

A wide pedestrian path cuts through the masses, revealing a clover-like layout. Incisions along this pathway drop down to the building’s ground level, offering glimpses into the archives embedded in the museum’s base.

The landscape is beautifully woven in the site to position spaces that not only bring people together but also highlight the history of Tromsø and the Arctic region. A large amphitheatre cascade down toward the harbour and is designed to host public events and gatherings. The outdoor paths double as green passages and courtyards that reveal a living collection of botany, geology, and archaeology.

A view of the open air amphitheatre extending towards the harbour | Arctic University Museum of Norway | Henning Larsen | STIRworld
A view of the open air amphitheatre extending towards the harbourImage Credit: Courtesy of Henning Larsen

“Our design takes strong reference from the natural setting and cultural history of northern Nor-way,” says Henning Larsen partner Peer Teglgaard Jeppesen. “While modern, the design builds on the language of local heritage to create a glowing landmark that will be a beacon for the island city.”

The project, developed for Statsbygg in collaboration with COWI, Borealis, and SLA, is currently awaiting planning permission.

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