Diploma 2015: "Canary in a coalmine" by Karianne Fonn Jårvik and Erlend Espenæs

- Channeling the energy of Longyearbyen

Recent years have seen coal prices fall. At current prices, mining coal in Svalbard is no longer profitable. The coal company Store Norske is still in business after being bailed out by the government with a NOK 500 million loan. Looking beyond profit margins, Norwegian sustainability ambitions are losing credibility as we continue burning coal in ”a melting Arctic”.

This diploma project proposes a strategy for the first phase after the end of coal mining in Longyearbyen. Research and tourism is given main priority, since there is both a tradition and a need for these activities. Many people, both tourists and researchers, are directing their attention to the Arctic because of the focus on climate changes. There is a general increase in tourism to remote places where people can experience pristine nature, which has also led to a rise in the number of visitors to Longyearbyen.


The melting sea ice leads to great changes in the Arctic. Longyearbyen should seize the opportunity to reaffirm its position as an important contributor to Arctic research and demonstrate that sustainability in the Arctic is possible. Interest in the Arctic and traveling to the remote islands of Svalbard has never been this high. Never has there been this much fish in the Barents Sea and the interest among researchers for the changing environment is increasing. To facilitate for research activities and tourism will be a good strategy to sustain the town. In the harbour we propose facilities for marine research; an expansion of UNIS, in combination with different activities for inhabitants and tourists. Connected to a public plaza, which turns into an ice rink during the winter, there will be a seafood restaurant taking advantage of excess fish from the research. In relation to the increased research activity in the fjord, a wastewater treatment plant will be required. This process of using plants to cleanse greywater ends in a constructed lagoon where the water gets rinsed by water plants before it is led out into the fjord. This process is displayed in a public greenhouse.


Nybyen marks the end of the built environment in Longyearbyen. From here many use the opportunity to take a trip to the glacier either by snowmobile or skis. Between the town and nature, our proposed project is a sauna. It is spacious sauna with an electric heater. On wooden benches in a room where all walls are black, one can enjoy the view of the mountains through high windows. If lucky, the aurora borealis will be visible, shimmering across the night sky.

This sauna will be a welcome ending of a long trip on the glacier and a suitable hiking destination for tourists staying in Longyearbyen. To maximize the experience the changing rooms and the sauna are separated. This gives a walk of 20 meters where visitors will experience the dramatic landscape.


The pavilion serves a landmark for tourists and can be seen from the harbour. It is placed adjacent to a parking lot in the town centre, which is used for events like the gathering on the 8th of March, when the sun rises above the hilltop of?Gruvefjellet. The pavilion can be used as the gathering point for such events. Through a long sloped glass façade there is a view of the mountainside facing the town centre.

The mountain ridge, which has eroded onto its characteristic shape, Longyearbyen church and the cableway structures are visible. The design of the pavilion is referencing the leftover wooden structures in the landscape. The shape is also deflecting wind off the path.

See pdf Pulic Plaza and Climate change 

Current situation Longyearbyen, Svalbard

Map of Longyearbyen and project 



New buildings harbour, research, public, wastewater plan

Site plan harbour 

Landscape pavillion axonometric

Landscape pavillion plan og snitt 200 

Landscape Pavillion model 

Pedestrian path collage 

Snow mobile crossing pedestrian path model 

Model Nybyen and Sauna 500

Site plan Nybyen and Sauna 

Sauna axonometric 

Sauna axonometric 

Model photo Sauna