Svart by Snøhetta: A Futuristic Circular Hotel Glows Under the Aurora Borealis

Redefining what it means to be a hotel on the water, Svart by architectural firm Snøhetta is an energy-positive circular structure hovering above the frigid fjord at the foot of Norway’s Svartisen glacier. Unusual in both its shape and positioning, the new hotel will be the world’s first ‘Powerhouse’ hotel in the Arctic circle, producing its own energy while simultaneously reducing its energy needs. ‘Powerhouse’ is a standard developed in part by Snøhetta requiring a building to generate more renewable energy over a 60-year period than it uses during its lifetime, including the construction, material production and demolition processes.

The ring-shaped building is beautiful, especially after dark, but aesthetics were only a small factor in the design process. The hotel is located in a pristine natural environment, so having a light footprint on the land is essential. The circular shape also makes the most of available solar energy, strategically placing interior spaces like guest rooms, restaurants and terraces where they’ll get the most sunlight. Svart gets its heat from geothermal wells.

The structure itself features a promenade set just beneath it so guests can walk the full circle, gazing down at the water below, and also functions as a storage space for kayaks and other equipment in the summertime, as the hotel can only be accessed by boat. The slim wooden supports taper down to the rocks beneath the surface for the smallest possible disturbance on the setting. The architects took visual inspiration from a type of local vernacular architecture known as ‘fiskehjell,’ wooden structures used for drying fish, as well as traditional seasonal housing for fishermen.

“Building in such a precious environment comes with some clear obligations in terms of preserving the natural beauty and the fauna and flora of the site,” says Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, founding partner of Snøhetta. “It was important for us to design a sustainable building that will leave a minimal environmental footprint on this beautiful Northern nature. Building an energy positive and low-impact hotel is an essential factor to create a sustainable tourist destination respecting the unique features of the plot.”