Snøhetta’s name derives from Norwegian Everyone words snø (meaning snow) and hetta (meaning hood), together meaning “mountain with a hood of snow”. This magnificent mountain has a very special place in the heart of every Norwegian. Founded in Oslo in 1989, Snøhetta is an architectural firm with the vision of creating open spaces that connect people. They believe that architecture is not only within the realm of architects, but a culmination of the work of people from different fields. To Snøhetta, architecture can realize real change in communities around the world if we remain open, and consider meaning and context in the process of design.
Every architecture firm has its own creative philosophy. Some architects strive to create grand structures while others seek to push the creative envelope. What sets Snøhetta apart is their emphasis on “openness”, never starting from within nor insisting on a certain mould.
Moreover, Snøhetta ’s forte lies in weaving narrative and context into architectural designs. Situated along the Norwegian coastline, The Oslo Opera House resembles a huge iceberg and has played a vital role in the coastline’s transition from a traditional industrial area to a revitalised public space. Another project situated in the south of Oslo is Under, Europe’s first underwater restaurant. With half of the building submerged in water, over time the restaurant has become part of the coastline, an artificial reef rising out of concrete. Snøhetta ’s designs exude an unmistakable sense of openness and dialogue and connection with the environment.
To Snøhetta , connection between people is formed through shared experiences, and architecture is the perfect place to foster them. When considering the expansion of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the firm believed that contemporary art museums are no longer simply places to house collections, rather a space that actively participates and effects change in the local community. By increasing exhibition space threefold as well as expanding free exhibition areas and outdoor public areas, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has become a place for people to gather and meet.
Snøhetta ’s presence spans from Oslo, New York and San Francisco to Hong Kong, Paris and Stockholm. A long communal table sits at the center of every office, a place for daily meetings, work discussions, socialising and communal meals. The communal table embodies the firm’s core values: flexibility, transparency, and most importantly, equality. Snøhetta believes that open spaces allow individuals to feel a part of the community and strengthen emotional ties.
What will architecture of the future look like? Places of residence have always changed as our environments and our knowledge of the world evolve. As cities around the world face similar challenges, how can architectural design respond to our environment in the 21st century?
First and foremost is sustainability. In designing buildings of the future, it is vital to consider whether materials can be recycled and how energy efficiency can be enhanced with the objective of using fewer resources whilst maintaining a comfortable environment. Before environmental issues became global headlines, Snøhetta focused on creating architecture that encourage us to live in harmony with our environment. Take AIRSIDE, the firm’s first project in Hong Kong, as an example: from building materials and landscape design to forming public spaces, sustainability has been an overarching principle in realising AIRSIDE’s vision as a place for “wholeness”.
Moreover, in cities of the future, the line between public and private space will continue to blur. Commercial, residential and transportation areas have always been divided, making it difficult to find a quiet place to sit down and rest. After observing Hong Kong’s unique cityscape, Snøhetta decided to remove doors, walls and floors dividing retail, office and public spaces, instead creating a well-balanced place through integration of different functional spaces. AIRSIDE’s design also incorporates significant landscape elements, establishing an interdependent, environmentally conscious community through cultivation of open green space.
When designing AIRSIDE, Snøhetta contemplated a place where everyone can live in harmony with themselves, with society and the wider world, and together shape future possibilities. The essence of architecture is its ability to connect people and the environment, and help us reflect on the way we live.
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