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The Arc, Snøhetta

Cultural History in Perpetual Ice: The Arc by Snøhetta

Commissioned by Arctic Memory AS, Snøhetta have created an Arctic depository in Longyearbyen on Spitsbergen, which lies 1,300 km above the Arctic Circle, 78⁰ north of the equator and is protected as part of a demilitarized zone. The Arc presents objects from the Svalbard Global Seed Vault and the Arctic World Archive, which is devoted to the preservation of digital cultural heritage.

Snøhetta have structured the spatial program in two parts. The entrance building, which is constructed of a supporting structure of laminated timber on a pile foundation, forms a rectangular volume that is suspended to prevent the thaw of the permafrost. The monolithic exhibition building stands opposite; its exterior is the result of the effects of linear erosion.

After crossing a glass access bridge, visitors come to a comprehensive spectrum of world history, a place where works by Edvard Munch can be found near 1,500-year-old manuscripts from the Vatican; film clips of Brazilian football player Pelé rest by seeds for staple foods, which could be cultivated anew should disaster strike. At the centre of all this, the Ceremony Room functions as a venue for lectures and visitors’ own reflections.

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