Jarmund/Vigsnæs AS Architects' Svalbard Science Centre demonstrates a classic case of form follows function
Opened 5 years ago, this 8,500 sq m university research building addition is located about halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole, which is just 600 miles away. Unsurprisingly, temperatures as low as -50°C are encountered during fierce winter storms. The whole building is raised up on steel posts to avoid melting the ground permafrost and it almost seems to float above the ground.
An insulated copper-clad skin is wrapped around the complex spaces demanded by the brief, creating an outer shell defined by the flows of wind and snow passing through the site and informed by climatic 3D simulations. The long-strip copper installation system was used with copper trays up to 10m in length.
Architects Jarmund/Vigsnæs design is an organic form derived from a lobster-shaped plan and faceted cross sections using sloping facades and shallow pitched roofs up to 60m long. At first sight, the long, low profile of the building seems arbitrary - almost like some alien structure sat in the snow or perhaps an echo of the angular faces of the surrounding mountains.
But the geometry is driven by essential practical considerations such as the effects of the flows of wind and snow through the site: an impressive demonstration of ‘form follows function’.