In the peak of winter, the city of Tromsø sees no sunlight at all. The island city, nestled into a verdant fjord 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, spends the half the year saturated in shades of blue. Many of the city’s landmarks are brightly illuminated through this period, standing out as bright beacons on the ultramarine horizon. The translucent masses that make up the 19,700 m2 new Arctic University Museum of Norway, located just southwest of the city’s center, will glow from within to act as a torch along the waterfront.
The exhibition halls enclose a broad pedestrian path that cuts through the building’s center. Incisions along this pathway drop down to the building’s ground level, offering glimpses into the archives embedded in the museum’s base. From the main passage, two narrower paths branch off to divide the museum’s upper exhibition levels into four discrete masses. The landscape is not just a feature of the site but a part of the exhibitions, housing a living collection of the botany, geology, archaeology, and cultural heritage of Tromsø and the larger Arctic region. The landscape will be open to visitors and maintained throughout the year. Where the museum approaches the water, a large amphitheater-like stair cascades outwards to double as an event and public gathering space for visitors and passersby.
The new museum will house Tromsø University’s cultural artifacts and natural history archives, joining two existing collections that have together outgrown their former homes.
Located at the top of the site, the existing structure (now the Tromsø Center for Contemporary Art) will remain, its view to the water framing an organizing axis for the new structure down the slope. The museum’s entrances are slip into reflecting corners on Museumsgata and Strandvegen, respectively housing ticket sales and gift shop and a waterfront café that spills out to the harbor.
Connection to the landscape, both in geography and in flora, is at the backbone of the design, with outdoor paths doubling as botanical passages and courtyards serving as pocket parks. Connection to the landscape, both in geography and in flora, is at the backbone of the design, with outdoor paths doubling as botanical passages and courtyards serving as pocket parks. The parkland around the site offers space for experimentation, study, and discovery and acts as public demonstration for the expertise housed within the museum itself. The museum’s interior material palette is a relative contrast to the cool exterior: soft wood covers the walls of the exhibition spaces in cozy counterpoint to the slate floors, framing a warm interior and dampening sound. Displays divide between those which are truly public and those which require expert study. The largest exhibition hall is dedicated to the display of a suspended blue whale skeleton; visitors can observe the artifact in its entirety from the floor below, corridors around, and even overlooks above. In addition to typical exhibition and research facilities, the museum will house an auditorium with a 200-seat capacity, and a number of small class and study rooms.