Snøhetta has become known as a virtual superstar in the world of architecture and at Scandinavia House, the exhibition “SNØHETTA: architecture, landscape, design” curated by Eva E. Madshus, more than explained why. Models of their celebrated Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria, Egypt, the recently completed Norwegian National Opera and Ballet in Oslo, Norway, and the planned National September 11 Memorial Museum Pavilion in New York spoke for themselves: logical yet dreamy, peaceful yet exciting, eco-conscious and innovative. It’s easy to see why Snøhetta has been garnered with awards.
Kjetil Trædal Thorsen explained how key factors came together in creating the firm:
“Oslo in the late 1980s went through a change in terms of architecture. The world in general was building a democratic society, which in turn threw architecture in a new direction: A new ideology was developing. Meanwhile the relationship between nature and architecture has always been very important in Norway.”
Both Thorsen and Craig Dykers spoke of the importance of transparency in their design and their way of anchoring a project like the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in history.
“We’re part of history but must not be captives of it,” Dykers pointed out. “As we grow we try to keep the intimacy we’ve had since we began.”
Thorsen admitted that the slow process of the Alexandrina project, their first project and the one that catapulted them into international fame, was healthy for them.
“We could grow up while it was being built! After that project we’ve worked quite a bit in the Middle East, and I think it’s important to focus on our similarities rather than differences.”
One of the main ideas that continue to fuel Snøhetta is that contemporary architecture has to be open to people, after all it’s only for people that buildings are being built, not for anything else.
An important aspect in the design of the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet in Oslo was to make sure that exiting the opera would be as wondrous as entering it. After you’ve seen and heard a great piece of music or a ballet, you should not have to be thrown out the back door into some dark street and have your entire experience ruined.
About the National September 11 Memorial Museum Pavilion in New York, Dykers added, “We wanted to make something intimate that would bring people together and create a sense of calm.”
“SNØHETTA: architecture, landscape, design” runs at Scandinavia House through April 3.