Snøhetta is an international design collective whose transdisciplinary approach and focus on sustainability has led to an extensive portfolio of visually stunning and environmentally friendly work. Although it is responsible for incredible buildings around the world, it is not an architecture firm. Snøhetta is made up of experts in architecture, landscape, interior design, graphic design and other related fields.
The name does not come from a company founder, but from a mountain range in Norway. Co-founder Craig Dykers describes that the initial team believed they shouldn’t name the company after just one person. “We don’t think authorship is as valuable as the meaning of place and the final character of the work,” Dykers says on the My Modern Met Top Artist podcast. The importance Snøhetta places on the site is clear throughout his work.
From the world’s largest underwater restaurant to the legendary Library of Alexandria, Snøhetta instills its values of place, culture, accessibility and the environment into every project it designs. Keep scrolling through five of our favorite examples of his thoughtful design work. And for more from the multidisciplinary design firm, listen to the full interview with co-founder Craig Dykers on the Top Artist podcast.
Discover five amazing projects from Snøhetta.
Library of Alexandria
Bibliotheca Alexandrina, or the Library of Alexandria, is a contemporary library designed as a revival of the structure lost in antiquity. The unique building does not attempt to imitate the architecture of the legendary library, but combines a modern form with reference materials.
The start-up won the international design competition for the library in 1989 for its bold proposal that included a circular form that was angled in section to provide interesting views of the landscape and allow natural light to enter the space. On its 11 floors, the library offers space for 4 to 8 million books as well as a planetarium, museum spaces and shared public spaces.
The shape of the library is inspired by the port of Alexandria and the cyclical nature of knowledge, while the sloping roof reflects the ancient lighthouse of Alexandria. The carvings on the facade of the library were created with artists using local stone.
If you want to know more about the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, check out our interview with co-founder Snøhetta Craig Dykers on the My Modern Met Top Artist podcast. We spend part of the episode learning about the library and how it acted as the unlikely catalyst for Snøhetta’s founding.
Snøhetta says his unique design for the Norwegian National Opera + Ballet is “as much landscape as architecture”. The firm’s redesign of the historic opera house invites visitors to ascend to the roof‚ transforming the building into a social monument and acting as a symbol of the city’s transformation of the industrial waterfront into an active public amenity.
The architecture of the opera house allows the public to actively engage with the building. By this gesture, the site becomes not only a place for art lovers who appreciate the orchestra, the opera or the ballet but for everyone independently. The elegant design of the opera house reflects the spirit and culture of Norway.
One of Snøhetta’s most iconic recent projects is Underthe the largest underwater restaurant in the world. Located on the shore of Båly, on the southern coast of Norway, the structure allows guests to dine five and a half meters, or about 18 feet, below the surface of the water. Massive picture windows provide incredible views of North Sea marine life for 40 guests at a time. Also included in the 495 square meter or 5,328 square foot building is a marine research center.
Snøhetta designed the shape of the restaurant to be as simple as possible. A concrete volume of 34 meters or 112 feet rests gently on the rocks and descends into the water. The concrete volume is rough, allowing it to match the textures of the surrounding rocks and creating an easier surface for algae, molluscs and other life forms to attach and attract other larger life forms.
550 Madison Garden
The firm’s proposal for 550 Madison Garden in midtown Manhattan reflects the importance of POPS, or private public space, in New York City. Drawing on the work of 550 Madison architects, Philip Johnson and John Burgee, Snøhetta imagines a dense and vibrant public garden. It is described as a place where people “slow down, linger and connect with each other and their surroundings”.
In addition to creating a beautiful space and building on the innovation of the original office building, the company hopes this project can serve as a model for future public spaces in New York City. The project is expected to achieve LEED Platinum and WELL Gold certification, paving the way for future adaptive reuse projects.
the Rebuilding Times Square project is the second NYC project to make our favorites list. Snøhetta has transformed a crowded and dangerous Manhattan intersection into 2.5 acres of pedestrian space. Through the reconstruction project, designers doubled the amount of pedestrian space in Times Square, which not only expanded public use but also improved public safety, air quality, and health.
According to Snøhetta, the new Times Square acts as a “contemporary stage for the spectacle of public life, reviving its place in the heart of New York.”