Snøhetta’s Out-of-This World Design for Norway’s Largest Planetarium

The campus, set within a dense forest north of Oslo, will include a variety of buildings inspired directly by planets and their orbits.

Snohetta Planeterium Norway
Courtesy Snøhetta/Plompmozes

In the dense boreal forests north of Oslo, Norway, Snøhetta, the international architecture and landscape design practice, is planning an otherworldly expansion to the country’s largest observatory. The Solobservatoriet, in Harestua was originally built for the total solar eclipse in 1954, and today is operated by Tycho Brahe, an institute whose mission is to perform scientific research and enlighten the public about the wonders of the universe. Snøhetta’s planned expansion will add a visitors center and planetarium to Tycho Brahe’s existing facilities, as well as several small outbuildings to the observatory’s historic telescope tower.

Snøhetta’s design is inspired by astronomical principles and the geometry of stars, planets, and their orbits. The new 16,000-square-foot planetarium will be the centerpiece of the campus. According to renderings released today, its 100-seat viewing theater will be housed in a large golden dome engraved with constellations, and surrounded by an undulating, crater-like ring planted with a green roof. Nestled as it is into the surrounding landscape, the dome gives the appearance of an extra-terrestrial object that has just touched down, or crash landed, in a clearing in the northern woods. This main building will also be home to a visitors center and a cafe.

Outside of the planetarium, the celestial theme continues, as sinuous paths lead the visitor among seven “interstellar cabins:” small multi-purpose structures made from different materials and inspired by imaginary planets. Scattered around the woodland site, the cabins will host lectures, seminars, team building activities. The smallest “planet” will be a two-bed cottage where visitors can spend a night under the stars.

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