The Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta reveals plans to renew the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo. The new museum will be in line with Thor Heyerdahl’s adventurous spirit and drive to promote intercultural understanding and respect for our natural resources.
Located on the forested Bygdøy peninsula in Oslo, the Kon-Tiki Museum is one of Norway’s most visited museums, with more than 70 percent of its visitors coming from abroad to take part in the historic adventures of Thor Heyerdahl. Following Heyerdahl’s world-renowned, sensational Kon-Tiki expedition in 1947, the Kon-Tiki Museum was established in Oslo, Norway.
The original building was built in 1957 for the Kon-Tiki raft and extended in 1978 with the RA II-part. On the technical side, especially the oldest part is in desperate need of renovation, with exposed and uninsulated concrete structures and severe heat leakage, but also water leakage in basements.
A new museum honouring Heyerdahl’s adventurous spirit
In the fall of 2020, The Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta completed a feasibility study for the Kon-Tiki Museum, aiming to renew the museum in line with Thor Heyerdahl’s adventurous spirit. Set to open in 2025, the revitalization of the existing building and its new expansion will let visitors experience and explore an unparalleled cultural heritage that is reflected in a context of today.
The Kon-Tiki Museum houses a broad range of Heyerdahl’s work, from his first trip to the Pacific Island of Fatu Hiva and the exploration of Easter Island to his journeys with Kon-Tiki, the Ra, the Ra II and the Tigris. Despite Heyerdahl’s passing in 2002, his thoughts, ideas and research vibrantly live on, both within and outside of the museum.
Garden created for exploration
In the true spirit of Heyerdahl, the new Kon-Tiki Museum aims to spark people’s curiosity and urge to explore, particularly among children. A large and lush green garden, surrounded by trees to both the east and the west, creates an intimate and contemplative space. The garden is created for exploration, while also being well-suited for larger events and gatherings.
The museum’s new centrepiece will hold a large multi-purpose auditorium at the tip, with spectacular views of the garden and the sky – a place dedicated for young and old alike to learn and discuss the importance of consumption reduction and address the global challenges related to our lack of focus on ocean health.
Explorer with a passion for nature and animals
Heyerdahl was interested in the preservation of nature, concerned by overconsumption, and passionate about creating a more sustainable world.
“In this project with Snøhetta we are really strengthening Thor Heyerdahl’s famous legacy; from heeding an insatiable curiosity to championing environmental issues and sustainability. Thor Heyerdahl was a resolute and fascinating man who fulfilled his dreams of exploring the world and actually living the science”, says Martin Biehl, director of the Kon-Tiki Museum
Snøhetta has set ambitious sustainability targets for the new museum, aiming to reduce the building’s total CO2 emissions through use of energy efficient materials, reuse and a holistic view of the lifecycle of the building.
“We carefully consider everything that can be reused. By such our aim is to avoid over-consumption and to thoughtfully preserve the uniqueness of a museum visited by 200.000 every year. Curiosity through architecture can be encouraged through creation of spaces and flows that frees enough mental space for each visitor, young and grown-up, to enjoy their own reflections as they walk along”, says Astrid Renata Van Veen, Project Leader, Architect, Snøhetta Oslo.
Van Veen reflects on her own experience visiting the Kon-Tiki Museum as a child:
“Thor Heyerdahl and his team’ s expeditions seemed almost too adventurous to be true. Thor Heyerdahl was like the grown-up doing things kids could identify themselves with because his methods were low key. Visiting the museum was magic and scary, I am sure every child remembers the threatening whale shark underneath the raft. Even as a grown up I find it quite fascinating and engaging to walk through the dark, 30-meter long man-made replica of a cave on Easter Island.”
Who was Thor Heyerdahl?
Thor Heyerdahl is first and foremost known for his Kon-Tiki expedition. In 1947 Heyerdahl and his crew sailed the pacific Ocean in a light-weight balsa raft. The 101-day journey took them from Peru to the Tuamato Islands in Polynesia. The purpose was to prove Heyerdahl’s theory of ancient migration from South America to Polynesia.
In 1969 and 1970 he carried out the two Ra expeditions which, in Heyerdahl’s opinion, proved that ancient vessels would have been able to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
Heyerdahl’s last great raft expedition took place in 1977-78 when he sailed around the Arabian peninsula in the reed boat Tigris.
Heyerdahl has also conducted scientific expeditions to the Easter Island, Galapagos, the Maldives and to the ancient pyramids of Tucume in Peru, among other places.
The Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo (on the Bygdøy peninsula) shows the well-preserved balsa raft Kon-Tiki and the papyrus raft Ra, as well as a large collection of archeological findings from Heyerdahl’s expeditions.