Founded by Kjetil Traedal Thorsen, Christoph Kapeller, and Craig Edward Dykers in 1989, Snøhetta is an international Architecture Office most known for its works based on cultural architecture.
The firm began as a collaborative architectural and landscape workshop and has moved on to broaden its trans-disciplinary approach towards several remarkable projects all over the world. One such recent intervention by the firm is its proposal for the renovation of the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo, Norway. 

Snøhetta has come up with a proposal that functions as an extension to the visions of Thor Heyerdahl – the Norwegian explorer to whom the museum is dedicated.

Sky-facing auditorium to Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo to be added by Snøhetta - Sheet1
Kon-Tiki Museum, Oslo, Norway_©

The Kon-Tiki Museum

The Kon-Tiki Museum in the Bygdøy peninsula in Oslo, Norway, is a museum dedicated to the Kon-Tiki expeditions of a Norwegian adventurer named Thor Heyerdahl. The museum houses several maps and vessels used in the expedition and also has a library that is home to about 8000 books. 

Kon-Tiki is the name of a raft made out of balsa wood which was used by Thor Heyerdahl to sail from Peru to Polynesia in the year 1947. This raft has been preserved in the museum along with another boat named Ra II that Heyerdahl used to sail in an expedition from North Africa to the Caribbean. 

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Kon-Tiki Raft_©

Heyerdahl, as a Norwegian explorer, played an important role in creating a heritage that acknowledged the need to respect mother nature and all the resources it provides to humankind. Therefore, he went on to become more than just an adventurer and taught us that as humans we need to be empathetic towards all forms of life around us. The Kon-Tiki museum has been built to reflect these visions of Heyerdahl. 

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Kon-Tiki Museum, Oslo, Norway_©

In an attempt to provide more insights into the life of the explorer, the museum has been extended and renovated several times by incorporating valuables from Thor Heyerdahl’s adventures in the Oceans – this includes spaces that reflect his ideology of being invested in the preservation of nature and marine ecosystems. 

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Kon-Tiki Museum, Oslo, Norway_©

The vision for the extension

The key vision for the extension of the Kon-Tiki museum was to design a space that justified the ideologies of Thor Heyerdahl and accordingly communicate those to the visitors. Snøhetta chose this vision keeping in mind that the Kon-Tiki museum is one of Norway’s most visited museums, with more than 70 percent of its visitors being international tourists who look forward to taking part in Thor Heyerdahl’s historic adventures.

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Kon-Tiki Museum, Oslo, Norway_©

The firm places experience at the center of their design process, for they believe that a design engages the senses and physicality of the body while fostering social interaction. As a part of redesigning and extending the Kon-Tiki museum, Snøhetta puts forward a similar vision wherein the users are the key to holistic experiences within the museum premises.

Sky-facing auditorium to Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo to be added by Snøhetta - Sheet6
Kon-Tiki Museum, Oslo, Norway_©

The proposal by Snøhetta

In the year 2020, Snøhetta completed a feasibility study for the Kon-Tiki museum – that investigated and evaluated the potential of both the site and existing structure along with the historical significance it holds. This allowed the firm to understand the constraints and opportunities of the project and thus come up with a proposal that would enhance the value of the museum as a public institution

Snøhetta has proposed a centered expansion of the museum with a sky-facing auditorium splitting the existing building into two parts – one with the Kon-Tiki raft and the other with the Ra II boat. 

The structure is designed in the shape of a wooden wedge that tilts towards the sky and is representative of a sail that stretches against the wind. This symbolic design is functionally responsible for establishing a connection between the indoor auditorium and outdoor garden spaces.

The indoor space consists of two levels – the ground floor to function as a café, and the floor above as a multipurpose auditorium. The amalgamation of informal and formal spaces allows the use of the auditorium as a platform meant for discussions that address global problems related to ocean health and dying marine ecosystems. 

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Snohetta’s proposal Café on G.F_©Snø

While the indoors serve as a contemplative space for healthy discussions, the outdoor spaces will be developed as large lush green gardens, surrounded by trees in the East as well as the West, creating an intimate space that is open to foster the thoughts of curious children.

Snøhetta acknowledges Heyerdahl’s heritage of being invested in the preservation of nature by coming up with a design proposal that falls in alignment with the 1.5-degree target of the Paris Agreement. Their proposal aims at reducing the building’s total CO2 emissions through the use of energy-efficient materials and reusing existing resources. By doing so they are also attempting to put forward a holistic approach towards designing public institutions.

Snohetta’s proposal for Kon-Tiki museum_©Snø

These efforts to revitalize the existing structure and expanding it into new horizons will give rise to opportunities for visitors to experience and explore the rich cultural heritage left behind by the visionary – Thor Heyerdahl. Snøhetta has completed the feasibility study and expects that the museum will be open to the public in the year 2025. 



Gautami Menon is a final year student at the Institute of Architecture and Planning, Nirma University. As an aspiring architect, she is passionate about expressing design through the written medium. She believes that architectural design is a platform where intellect meets art and her designs are an attempt at justifying the same.

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