Celebrated Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta is designing Norway’s largest astronomical facility. The architects aspire to capture the feeling of being wrapped in nature and at the same time being in space.
The campus, set within a dense forest, 72 kilometers (45 miles) north of Oslo, will include a variety of buildings inspired directly by planets and their orbits. This will be a spectacular destination for astronomy fans. Imagine tripping over a small planetary system in a forest.
Built for spying during the cold war
The Solobservatoriet in Harestua was originally built for the total solar eclipse in 1954 and used by the US military to spy on Soviet satellites during the cold war. Today it is operated by Tycho Brahe, an institution whose mission is to perform scientific research and enlighten the public about wonders of the universe.
The planetarium will look like a glowing planet, and the dome of the 100 seats “heavenly viewing theater” will be planted with grass, wild heather, blueberry and lingonberry bushes as a smooth transition from soil to sky. Snøhetta’s designers took astronomy classes and were captivated by the architecture of the galaxy. “We learned about the analemma diagram of eight shapes made by the moon and the sun if you look at them from the same point for 365 days,” says Ingebjørg Skaare, a senior architect at Snøhetta who is working on the project.
Serving groups up to 32 persons
Stargazers who want to spend the night in the forest, can use the designated accommodation, serving groups of two to 32. The circular cabins will scatter loose around the planetarium, by design. A local wood company will work with Snøhetta to develop efficient construction techniques for the cabins. Custom-built furniture will be designed for the rooms’ unusual floor plan.
“A cabin can rise slightly above the ground, partially sunken or just touching the ground like a kiss, creating a planetary system on the site,” explains Skaare and adds: “The intact landscape on the site is one of the most important qualities for the experience.”
An international destination
The planned expansion includes a visitors center as well as several small outbuildings to the observatory’s historic telescope tower. When completed in 2020, the 1,500 sq. m observatory will be the largest solar observatory north of the Alps.
With cafés, dreamy accommodations, even a generous “bowl-shaped” children’s area on the bowel of the planetarium, Snøhetta’s redesign will transform Solobservatoriet’s rather modest facility to an international destination.
Campus for Astronomy Fans is Being Built in Norway, written by Tor Kjolberg