Greenland’s harsh arctic climates are notoriously unforgiving, which makes the 20th anniversary of Greenland’s Katuaq Cultural Centre all the more impressive. Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects completed the cultural and artistic center in February 1997 and forged a meeting space open to locals, the international Inuit community, and visitors from around the world. Located in Nuuk, the award-winning Katuaq Cultural Centre is largely inspired by the environment, from its iceberg-like massing to its timber unudulating screen that acts as an architectural metaphor for the northern lights.
Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects won an international competition for the Katuaq Cultural Centre in 1992 with its conceptual designs of a dramatic building inspired by the Greenlandic landscape. The 4,800-square-meter undulating building features a triangular monolithic body that mimics an iceberg, a “floating” second skin made up of golden larch wood that alludes to the northern lights, and a bright, white foyer space that references snow and ice. Natural light illuminates the foyer through roof lights and narrow oblong glass slits in the timber screen. The foyer leads to a theater, cinema, and cafe.
“Winning the competition to design the Cultural Centre in Greenland was a major breakthrough for our studio as our first project on an international scale. It spearheaded our architectural ambition to create cultural buildings with a strong sense of place and a space that acts as a meeting place for people,” says Founding Partner Morten Schmidt. “The challenge of constructing a sustainable building that could withstand the arctic climate conditions also brought us new knowledge about which materials we should use.” The Katuaq Cultural Centre has stood the test of time and welcomes approximately 100,000 visitors every year, an impressive number given Greenland’s estimated population of 56,500.
Images via Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects