January 24, 2023
A Floating Learning Center Is Inspired by a Salmon’s Eye
Among the myriad environmental crises currently afflicting our planet, overfishing is one that that doesn’t receive as much attention as it deserves. It’s projected that all ocean biomass will be depleted by 2048. Looking to assert the critical considerations that surround more responsible forms of aquaculture stewardship, the new Salmon Eye Learning Center is as much a visual instigation as it is a feat of sustainable engineering. Befittingly staged right above the surface of Norway‘s Hardangerfjord—the world’s fifth longest, the 7,000-square-foot exhibition hall follows the ovoid shape of a Salmon’s eye.
Commissioned by Sondre Eide, the third-generation CEO of fish farming giant Eide Fjordbruk, the forum is set to house a number of didactic and interactive exhibitions educating the wider public about cultivating seafood, an increasingly endangered yet vital food source. Much of the company’s operations occur nearby.
While the building’s exterior is rendered in 9,500 stainless steel fish-scale panels, an aperture at its pinnacle—where the fish’s pupil would be—serves as an open-air stage for performances and lectures. “We picked these two iconic details to ensure that the center would be recognizable and visible on Google Maps or from a plane flying over,” says Arne Kvorning, Kvorning Design founder, CEO, and chief exhibition designer. The Copenhagen-based firm and communications agency specializes in producing unconventional solutions for exhibition design and other cultural typologies.
“Our general approach is to create narratives and physical concepts that visually reflect the actual topics in an abstract manner.” Taking on the construction of an entire building, the Salmon Eye Learning Center, is a first for the three-decades-old practice. “Being able to create the full concept—combining the architectural thinking and interior design with the interactive content and the full visitor experience—was a fantastic challenge.” Kvorning and his interdisciplinary team were able to apply their strong aesthetic sensibilities to all layers of the project.
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Given the topic at hand, introducing sustainable construction and operation strategies was an imperative. Making sure that the building would not have a disruptive effect on the pristine setting it inhabits was central to the endeavor. “The concept of positioning Salmon Eye directly on water was a natural but challenging choice,” Kvorning adds. “We wanted to have information about aquaculture and fish farming activities as close to the actual floating production facilities as possible, so visitors could access all of it as part of a one-trip visitor experience.” A pre-booked electric ferry transports visitors to the site but is also responsible for removing all of its waste.
Thanks to carefully placed, state-of-the-art pilings, the building achieves maximal weight stability while having minimal impact on the aqueous ecosystems below. Unsurprisingly for a project in a harsh marine environment, the firm selected high-grade materials with an emphasis on durability to reduce the need for eventual maintenance.
This same resourceful approach informed the center’s tight but efficiently activated interior program. A basement cinema displays an introductory film before visitors ascend spiraling ramps to engage with various ever-changing digital displays on the main level. “Salmon Eye is designed to be as flexible as possible with information surfaces and elements based on a combination of hand-held devices, tables, and video projections on the curved walls.
“As the pavilion is defined by a significant ellipsoidal shell and the interior is a fully open space integrating many levels, it can be difficult to manage acoustics with numerous visitors coming in at one time in combination with the active use of sound effects and video content.” Kvorning explains. Danish textile powerhouse Kvadrat supplied custom-designed, sound-absorbing wall panels for the atypical structure. “The programming of the space is an ongoing process and will be revealed by the owners, piece by piece, over the next few years,” he says.
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