Hammerfest, Norway
MONOLAB architects
1-5 Stories

HAMMERFEST ARCTIC CULTURAL CENTER  © 2004. International architecture competition for the Findus site

client: Hammerfest Municipality and Hammerfest Næringsinvest. Design: Monolab-Transform (Rotterdam-Aarhus)

team: phase 1: Monolab: J.W. van Kuilenburg with J. Tenani, W. Hoogerwerf / Transform: L. Bendrup with L.V. Jense / phase 2: Monolab: J.W. van Kuilenburg with L.V. Jensen, M. Klauser, S. Fernandes, A. Hassouri / Transform: L. Bendrup with M. Østrup, T. Lee. Engineering: Ove Arup - Amsterdam, Barlindhaug - Tromso, Erichsen&Horgen – Oslo. Award: 1st shared prize (113 entries). URBAN WEB SPACE 1&2. The Municipality of Hammerfest, the northernmost town of Norway and Europe, organised an open international architecture competition for the Findus Site and the programmed Arctic Culture Center (ACC). Hammerfest will become the center of the multi energy (gas, oil, wind and tidal electric power) Barents region. A stretched 300-m. zone along the harbour seafront with the former Findus plant is free for an urban re-development consisting of a hotel and a cultural center that together would function as a congress facility. There was no first prize, but two second prize winners. Monolab-Transform won with ‘Urban Web Space 1’. The other winner was a Norwegian team. We were asked by the municipality to rework our scheme and to compete with the Norwegian team for the first prize. For us, this ‘reworking’ meant in fact making a complete new design, because we had to bring the m2 and building costs within budget. This was not possible by simply adapting the scheme (a complete different situation, compared to the other winner), because a series of further major requests were assigned from the municipality. Although our new design, ‘Urban Web Space 2’, was just slightly over the m2 and within budget according to our calculations, Hammerfest Municipality unfortunately decided to give the project to the Norwegian team. The initial outspoken Hammerfest ambition suddenly seemed evaporated...

URBAN WEB SPACE 1 (phase 1 of the competition). ENERGY CONTROLLED URBAN TISSUE. We proposed to realize an urban tissue that functions as ‘outdoor interior’. This outdoors-public environment, a small-scale urban tissue (web) with all year qualities, is designed for pedestrians that are protected by surrounding buildings. The tissue is a web of connections that makes a pedestrian paradise and ‘determines’ the placement of buildings. The layout can be irregular which makes each spot unique. The webspace offers climatic control in two ways: 1. by the ‘medieval low-tech’ principle of the pedestrian webspace, a protective narrow pattern of small streets and alleys, and 2. by protective ‘high-tech’ flexible glass screens covering the web at less protected locations. The screens can flip open and close, following the local weather conditions. Only one laptop can combine both webspace and screens into an ‘interactive urban organism’. Using a series of measuring instruments it will be able to decide which screens can be opened or closed in order to take care of climatic conditions, energy saving and energy gain. The webspace tissue is too small scale for big public buildings. So these buildings, like ACC and Hotel, are embedded on top of the tissue. The public buildings will be covered with glass as well. This glass protection shield will look like a brilliant crystalline drapery. In this way the public buildings underneath can have a delicate character and can be cladded with subtle interior materials. Buildings and glass screens will allow light and air and co-operate in this urban ‘organism-that-breathes’. It is clear that by all means we want to avoid the usual dramatic, sick qualities of endless mall-like interior spaces. Our target is an open-air pedestrian paradise with high-tech and low-tech energy control to meet the energy issue raised in this competition. Door-to-door behavior is now made fit for pedestrians instead of vehicles. In section, the urban tissue is caught within two horizontal planes. Below is the city floor, a plateau or stepping stone, between the lower quay and higher Strandgata, strengthening the idea of an urban ‘interiorized’ exterior. On top are a number of horizontal, flexible glass screens that span between buildings over the narrow streets and alleys.

FLEXIBLE URBANISM. The urban tissue is meant to be flexible. Small-scale volumes form a layout with narrow streets and alleys. We have proposed one possible layout. Of course phasing and adaptations can easily make more alternative layouts.

TRAFFIC CONTROL. The urban tissue is completely fit for pedestrians, except access for municipal service vehicles and two small docking positions for trucks and vans for ACC and Hotel. Traffic is kept where it belongs, vehicles can park in a sunken, invisible, integrated and collective parking along Strandgata. The parking serves the complete length of the site.

SCALE ELEMENTS. Why push cruise ships away from town when these gigantic moving ‘islands’ generate interesting activities? We planned a quay as promenade deck on columns as part of this scheme, which allows (cruise) ships to fit closely in a layout of three parallel zones with different qualities and scales. The ACC competition site is then situated in-between huge contrasting elements: slowly moving cruise ships on the west side and heavy, solid hills on the east side. The urban tissue in-between is only 4-floors high and offers a socle for the big public buildings, resting on top. The same glass that protects parts of the pedestrian webspace covers these elevated buildings.

PUBLIC BUILDINGS. Public buildings are resting ‘on top’ of the urban tissue. The web volumes below are serving the ACC and Hotel from the city floor. The space below the ACC and Hotel offers a protected sphere, which is part of the pedestrian webspace. The webspace connects hotel and ACC. The HOTEL is a protective dome (maximum quantity of floorspace with smallest surface of facade) which offers a compact foyer-lobby space inside. The sloping ‘wall’ of the dome contains the rooms. The insides as well as the outside of the dome are glazed. Each ‘ring’ of rooms has terraces on the exterior and a corridor on the interior. The glazed terraces can be opened up to catch fresh air and more light. Each room has a unique exterior panorama. The ACC can be considered a gigantic ‘telescope’. Both auditoriums are oriented stage-to-stage for efficiency reasons (only one docking station) and the ‘open-door’ possibility exists to make one big amphitheatre. Both ends of this big telescope space are glazed and offer spectacular views targeted onto sea and land. The void is an arena or amphi with two programmed zones or ‘cheeks’ on both sides. The outer shape of the Amphi is a ‘reversed mountain’ standing on its top. It offers maximum space on the city floor and cantilevers outward. Visitors enter the building by the mountaintop and climb via a collective space in its ‘belly’ and on the ‘inside of the mountain’ towards the auditoriums and/or the cheeks.

The complete ACC is protected and covered by the glass protection drapery held up by a forest of steel rods. Through the north cheek a big public stair leads to the top of the Amphi, where we can make a sky deck below the glass. Visitors can move in-between the amphi and this glass drapery. The sky deck offers a spectacular 360-degree view over Hammerfest, over the coast and over the sea. Furthermore we proposed to turn the ACC inside out. Everywhere in the world, auditorium- and theatre buildings are expressed by warm interiors and cold, hard exteriors. As a result of our transparent glass protection we gave Hammerfest a unique chance to finish this public building, in this extreme climate, on inside-and-outside with warm, soft, glowing, purple velvet.

STRUCTURE. Building the ACC in Hammerfest’s brutal climate will require a fast building process by assemblage in prefab steel. The cheeks will be stabilized by structural escape stairs at outer ends and by some web buildings around. By spanning structural trusses between the cheeks, both auditoriums will be built. After this, the glass drapery can be mounted. This will protect the complete building site against rain, snow and wind and speed up the last, more subtle building phases and the finishes of floors and walls.

URBAN WEB SPACE 2 (phase 2 of the competition). PROGRAM FLOW. In this new design we had to bring down the number of levels, the amount of floor space and the building costs. Drastic measures were needed, like taking away the glass drapery. Very important as well was to push program down into web space volumes supporting the auditorium volume. We made the foyer a dedicated part of web space, acting as a plinth and holding ACC structurally and programmatically. We gave this culture foyer a Y-shape to make a 24h-passage, as well as a direct link to the hotel.

ACC HOUSE OF CULTURE = PLINTH + ROCK. Five web volumes work together to make the dedicated plinth with a protected foyer in-between, on top of which an elevated volume, ‘the rock’ is embedded. This together makes the ACC. The plinth contains the Culture School, Regional Stage for Dance, Link Music Group, the Cafeteria and part of the culture house like the docking station and administration. The foyer is the center as connective heart in-between. The rock has become programmatically skinny and very brutal with only the two auditoriums, the side stage and escape paths along both sides. The simplified design now consists of only three principal levels: the parking on -1, the plinth with foyer at ground level and the two auditoriums via level +1.

PLINTH-FOYER. The plinth of ACC acts as a structural and programmatical foundation. It is a collective space for visitors and passers-by, a filter, a social epi-center. The foyer has no threshold, because it fits the pedestrian patterns. The heart of the ‘Y’ makes many possible functional layouts in the 24-h cycle. All cultural groups can perform along the foyer or surrounded by the public. All facades can open up to organise events in the protected webspace environment. A wide, stepped connection is made between Strandgata and the quay. A big stair, excavated from the Culture School building, makes the connection from the foyer level to the auditoriums, right into the ‘belly’ of the rock.

ROCK-AUDITORIUMS. The two auditoriums are organized with combined stages because of pure efficiency, in order to avoid two separate stage towers and to avoid two separate docking facilities for unloading/loading. From the foyer, a direct stair leads into the belly of the rock on level 1 that functions as an interface with the entries to the two auditoriums. The rock of course consists of an inner soundproof box with the two auditoriums inside. We wrapped this ugly volume with the facetted skin of phase 1. The facets have a clear reason: avoidance of curved and expensive surfaces. The skin covers the complete object now and makes six facades all around, including bottom and top. We pushed the facets inward as much as possible, like ‘crashing’ a car. Between skin and box we have kept some space available with several functions: it insulates, it carries ducts, pipes and services, it contains the escape stairs, personnel corridors and very important, it provides space for the main structural steelwork to carry and stabilize the rock. The volume of the rock makes the scale jump between the buildings along Strandgata and the big ships along the quay. We have put a lot of effort in the design of the rock, to avoid references of objects we know. Instead of designing a building we designed an ‘object’. We did this by making the skin contextual, by giving it clear references to the Norwegian coastal landscape in the Hammerfest area, with its hills, plateaux, cliffs and overhangs. Our rock has several ‘faces’, from smooth and kind to serious and aggressive. The skin is a waterproof and insulating finish of shiny metal shingles, like the skin of a fish. We did this to keep the memory of the local fishing tradition alive. The alternative is an industrial system of aluminum sandwich panels with linear seams. The rock will change continuously with the amount of light, with the clouds and with the position of the sun. Parts of it will look grey and dark, while other parts will be reflective, brilliant and sparkling. Some strategic facets are glazed and will glow in the dark. Four facets that make two big windows at both ends of the rock are glazed to see the land and the sea from the two auditoriums. One specific facet in the belly, as a big triangular window, makes a visual connection between Strandgata, foyer and the belly space. The most spectacular facet is the one that opens up on top of the side stage, revealing a ‘secret’ space between skin and box, with a magnificent panorama over Hammerfest.

Related Projects

  • Herman Miller National Showroom
    Krueck Sexton Partners
  • The Ark, Condominiums
    Form4 Architecture
  • SFMOMA Rooftop Garden
    Jensen Architects
  • Kokoris Residence
    Jensen Architects
  • Turner Duckworth Offices
    Jensen Architects


Other Projects by MONOLAB architects

Rotterdam, Netherlands
Eindhoven, Netherlands
Delft, Netherlands
Rotterdam, Netherlands
Breda, Netherlands
Utrecht, Netherlands