Astronomic Architecture

At Harestua in Lunner municipality, about 45 kilometers north of Oslo, Snøhetta has designed a new visitor center in connection to Norway’s largest astronomical plant and the largest Solar Observatory north of the Alps. With its high-tech equipment and unique location 580 meters above sea level, the new center will invite visitors into one of Northern Europe’s foremost astronomical research stations.

The new visitor center is located at the original solar observatory built by the University of Oslo in 1954, just in time for the total solar eclipse that year. The center has served as a research and information center for universities for many years until it was sold in 2008. Today, the center is owned by the Tycho Brahe Institute, named after the Danish scientist and founder of Modern Observatory Astronomy, Tycho Brahe (1546-1601 ).

The new center will offer a range of activities within astronomy, sun studies, natural science and adventure activities. The audience extends widely, from researchers, through business to retirees and school and kindergarten groups. The new center will also be adapted to international tourism through knowledge-based experiences related to natural phenomena such as northern lights and the starry sky. At the same time, the center will also be adapted to business, by providing meeting facilities, lectures and team building. Image copyright: Snøhetta/Plompmozes.


The golden planetarium is the first thing to notice when approaching the plant on foot, a short walk from the parking lot via a constructed nature trail. The dome-shaped theater opens up from the hill, half covered by heather, blueberry and cranberries. The building is halfway buried below the ground and consists of four levels topped by a dome engraved with zodiac signs. The dome is partly covered by a spiral roof, a cross between landscape and building mass, which visitors can explore on foot.

Below you find the heart of the planetarium, a dome-shaped heaven theater that illuminates visitors about astronomy and night sky. Here visitors can experience a projection of constellations and planets that imitate reality. The room can accommodate around 160 guests – both during the day and overnight. Around the theater you will find reception, café, exhibition areas and a ramp that caters to the roof.

Around the planetarium you will find seven accommodations shaped like planets. Each of the planets has its own design – with a rough or slippery exterior, half buried under the ground, or situated on the ground as if they just landed. The new facilities meet the Tycho Brahe Institute’s enlightenment mission by creating wonder and curiosity around the Universe, as if the architecture itself asks the question: Where does everything come from?The center is scheduled to start the construction in 2019, and to be completed in 2021.