Snøhetta Designs The Arc To Showcase The Content Of Svalbard Global Seed Vault


Snøhetta has designed a visitor center for Arctic preservation storage called The Arc.

Commissioned by Arctic Memory AS, the visitor center will showcase content from the Svalbard Global Seed Vault – the world’s largest secure seed storage, and the Arctic World Archive – a vault that aims to preserve the world’s digital heritage. The visitor center will further provide its audience with insights into how the Svalbard Archipelago’s unique geology has transformed over millions of years.



The architecture divides the visitor center into two separate volumes; the entrance building and the exhibition building. The entrance building contains visitor functions such as lobby, ticketing, wardrobe, and a café, as well as production facilities for the Arctic World Archive and technical rooms.

A structural frame of cross-laminated timber in combination with stiffening wall discs in solid wood forms a rectangular building volume that rests on pile foundations in the bedrock. The building is suspended off the ground to prevent heating of permafrost and accumulation of snow.

The entrance building and the exhibition building contrast each other in form, texture, and color. While the entrance building is rational and stoic, the exhibition building expresses a unique shape, scale and spatial sequence, designed as a timeless, scale-less form that is both familiar and otherworldly at the time.



Access to the exhibition building occurs across a glass access bridge, which is used to organize visitors into smaller groups. On the access bridge, one is exposed to the surroundings and can experience from a single vantage point the towering geological formations to the south, the spectacular views to the north and the exterior of the exhibition building. The contrasting volumes are designed to give visitors the experience of going from a familiar entrance into a real vault inside the permafrost of Svalbard.

The Vault is kept at 4° Celsius and has muted lighting to further amplify the experience of being inside one of the real vaults. The vaults’ content can be experienced through projections on the walls, managed by touch screens, VR experiences and other physical and digital exhibit elements, developed in close collaboration with the storytelling agency Tellart.



Photography by Snøhetta & Plomp with courtesy of Snøhetta

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