Inside the World’s Greenest Airport Terminal (Featuring Two Snøhetta Bars)

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Not only is Nordic Office of Architecture’s new Oslo Airport terminal the greenest building of its kind, it also boasts two Snøhetta projects.

A new standard for airport design has been set in Oslo, where the world’s first BREEAM Excellent–certified terminal opened at the end of April.

Local firm Nordic Office of Architecture had earned the commission for the original Oslo Airport terminal via an international competition in 1989 and 20 years later won a bid to expand and add to the existing building. Not only does the 115,000-square-metre expansion consume about 50 per cent less energy than the original building, it’s increased the airport capacity by over 30 per cent, bumping it up from 19 to 30 million.

The new terminal is packed with sustainability features, including an approximately 2-million-gallon storage tank that sits beneath. During the winter, the snow cleared from the runways will be dumped into the tank, and in the summer, the icy reserves will be used to help cool the building.

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The new space also incorporates extensive use of natural lighting and environmentally friendly building materials such as recycled steel, locally and sustainably sourced timber, and a special concrete mixed with volcanic ash, which reduces CO2 emissions by 35 per cent.

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Sunlight-flooded interiors and ample use of wood also help create a much warmer vibe than we expect in such a venue. Though sustainability was clearly a key inspiration, the comfort of passengers was equally relevant to the design.

For instance, the revitalization reaches into the existing train station that sits at the heart of the airport, now updated to allow more travellers to reach the airport via public transportation. Once inside, the maximum distance to walk is 450 metres, which, believe it or not, is considerably less than most international airports.

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The transparency of the open spaces creates a visual legibility and simplifies wayfinding, to offer a less stressful and confusing experience. References to nature, including green walls, water features and a series of carved wooden seating islands that resemble oversized pebbles all help evoke a tranquil Scandinavian forest. In the duty-free area, retail shops are houses in flowing organic forms that are meant to mimic giant boulders typical of the Norwegian landscape.

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Among the generous amenities are a pair of standouts, courtesy of Snøhetta. The Oslo/New York firm’s local office designed two unique bars for the departures terminal. On the lower domestic level is Norgesglasset, named for the glass pickling jars that are iconic to the region and serve as the main material used in the space.

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Tucked at the crux between two gate halls, the bar’s back wall is covered in over 400 jars, a feature that runs up over the curved ceiling before spiraling downwards to form a swirling glass jar chandelier, lit from within by LEDs. The jar’s familiar red gaskets are referred to in the barstools and the cylindrical red cushions that form an upholstered backrest as the jars give way to banquette seating that runs the length of the wall.

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Upstairs, in the international level, Hunter Bar is more rustic and cozy, with a similarly curved wall feature that replaces the shimmering glass with rough blocks of wood that reach over a black service counter in raw steel. The wood forms a main volume that is wrapped in bench seating, upholstered in leather and woven textiles, in traditional patterns and autumnal colours.

Snøhetta’s comprehensive design and branding strategy for these two spaces included logos, menu cards, and even employee uniforms, helping to contribute to a cohesive feeling within the bars, as well as within the terminal.

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