Svalbard, Norway is an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean north of mainland Europe, about midway between Norway and the North Pole. This archipelago is the northernmost part of Norway. Three of its islands are populated: Spitsbergen, Bear Island and Hopen. The largest settlement is in Longyearbyen.
This project is an addition to an existing university and research facility, which get extended approximately four times their original size. The project, which was commissioned through an invited competition, also provides new facilities for the Svalbard Museum. The project became the largest building in Longyearbyen and Spitzbergen.
The insulated copper-clad skin is wrapped around the program demanded the creation of an outer shell, adjusted to the flows of wind and snow passing through the site. Climatic 3D simulations has been undertaken to assure that the accumulation of snow would not create undesired conditions in front of doors and windows. In the process, the skin has been flexible to adjustments, both geometrical changes answering to the climatic studies and alterations of program.
To prevent the melting of the permanent frost, the building is elevated on poles. The main structure is in timber, which allowed on-site adjustments during construction and contributed in the prevention of thermal bridges. The outer copper cladding which retains its workability even at low temperatures, helped in extending the construction period further into the cold season.
An important consideration has been the creation of vital public spaces and passages in the building, an “interior campus” area providing warm, well-lit meeting places during the dark and cold winter. The pine-clad spaces have complex geometry relating to the outer skin of the building- the effectiveness of the circulation is maximized but at the same time it offers varied vistas and experiences. The technical infrastructure is hidden behind the tilted walls inside the building. The use of color has been a necessity in a natural condition where colors are scarce.
To build a large project in the arctic poses a peculiar set of challenges. There are the important issues of permafrost and posing the building on poles so that heat is not transmitted to the ground. The weather narrows significantly the time frame for construction. For this project, to speed up the construction process, the architects planned ahead the work anticipated on site with the help of both virtual models as well as an accurate 1:50 construction model.
Project Details and Credits:
Location: Longyearbyen, Svalbard (Spitzbergen) (78° north)
Client: Statsbygg / Norwegian Directorate of Public Construction and Property.
Architect: Jarmund/Vigsnæs AS Architects MNAL, Einar Jarmund, Håkon Vigsnæs, Alessandra Kosberg, assisted by: Anders Granli, Nevzat Vize, Sissil Morseth Gromholt, Thor Christian Pethon, Halina Noach, Harald Lode, Stian Schjelderup.
Structural: AS Frederiksen
Electrical: Monstad AS
Mechanical: Erichsen & Horgen AS
Landscape: Grindaker AS
Climatic:Byggforsk v/Thomas Thiis
Gross area: Approx. 8,500m²
Photographs courtesy of Nils Petter Dale /