Katuaq Cultural Centre

Katuaq Cultural Centre, Nuuk, Greenland, Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects
Project year: 1997
Address: Imaneq 21, NUUK-GREENLAND, Denmark
Latitude/Longitude: 64.177266,-51.738846


In 1992, an international design competition with 226 proposals gave Schmidt Hammer Lassen the first prize. Their concept was inspired by the dramatic Greenlandic landscape that includes winding fjords, moving glaciers, icebergs and in winter the inspiring, undulating northern lights.

These elements are reflected by Katuaq Cultural Centre. The northern lights are symbolized from the surging, bright, timber-clad façade, with its luminous skylight. The iceberg is represented by the triangular, monolithic dark body of the building. The spatiality of the fjords and mountains, snow and ice are reflected through the interior bright, white foyer space with its independent volumes of theatre, cinema and café. The soul of the Greenlandic people is marked directly from the building’s organic, natural, appearance and it has managed to gather Greenlanders from all age groups and interests, while bringing a sense of ownership that reaches deep into society even today, many years later.

Founding Partner Morten Schmidt has said that this project was a major breakthrough for the studio as their first project on an international scale. Their architectural ambition to create cultural buildings was spearheaded with a strong sense of place and a space that acts as a meeting place for people. New knowledge about which materials the architects should use was also created during the challenge of constructing a sustainable building that could withstand the arctic climate conditions.

Katuaq has been has been embraced by not just its capital citizens but Greenlanders from all parts of the country. It is a popular space with an annual visitor number of 100,000 (Greenland has a population of approx. 56,500). It reflects the dynamic activity and cultural programme of the centre. It also enhances the fact, that these events are regularly broadcast from the TV studio designed for the building. Bringing the Inuit culture to every home, the Katuaq building acts as an icon for the Greenlandic community and beyond, spreading as far as Canada, Alaska and Russia.

Text description provided by the architects.

Size: 4,800 m²
Cost: € 12 million excl. VAT
Competition: 1992, 1st prize in open international competition
Status: Construction period 1994 – 1997
Client: Nordic Council of Ministers, Greenland’s Home Rule, Nuuk Municipality.
Engineers: Rambøll A/S, NIRAS A/S
Awards: 1997, Selected Buildings Award – 1998, The Nykredit Architecture Prize – 1998, The Danish Arts Foundation Award – 1999, The Eckersberg Medal

Contributed by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects