Snøhetta Designs Most Beautiful Planetarium

Snøhetta has designed a new planetarium and a visitor center for Solobservatoriet, Norway’s largest astronomical facility.

At the heart of the Solobservatoriet campus, will be a planetarium that looks like a glowing planet nestled in the forests of Harestua, an hour’s drive north of Oslo. The dome of the “celestial theater” will be covered in grass, wild heather, blueberry and lingonberry bushes as a gentle transition from ground to sky. “The untouched landscape at the site is one of the most important qualities for the experience,” explains Ingebjørg Skaare, senior architect at Snøhetta who is working on the project.

Inspired by the structure of solar systems, the new facility is organized around a giant dome at its center. Solobservatoriet is to be built on the site of a current observatory. The Tycho Brahe Instituttet, named after the 16th century Danish scientist who founded modern observational astronomy, has commissioned the facility. In addition to the planetarium there are interstellar cabins placed around it, each shaped like a small planet. the new facilities will offer a range of scientific activities within astronomy, sun studies, and natural science.

At the planetarium’s center will be the golden dome-shaped 100-seat viewing theater that’s partly sunken into the ground and engraved with constellations. It will be used to educate visitors about astronomy and the night sky, as well as natural phenomena such as the Northern Lights. The planetarium will also include a reception, café and exhibition area, as well as a ramp allowing visitors to climb above onto the green roof and gaze at the stars.

“Through the design phase, the architects studied simple principles from astronomy,” says Snøhetta. “The study inspired the design of the cabins which seemingly orbit around the planetarium, imitating how planets orbit around the Sun, inspiring a sense of wonder and surprise. Comfortably accommodating up to 118 guests in total, the facilities capture the imagination of its visitors through an intellectual, visual and tactile journey into the realm of astronomy.”

When completed in 2020, the 1,500 square meter observatory will be the largest solar observatory north of the Alps. Previously Snøhetta has introduced Europe to its first underwater restaurant.