In the spirit of Thor Heyerdahl

New Kon-Tiki Museum by Snøhetta set to open in Oslo in 2025 

Kon-Tiki Musuem

Image: Snøhetta and MIR
Illustration of the exterior the new Kon-Tiki Musuem scheduled for completion in 2025.


The Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta has revealed plans to build a new 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% of its visitors coming from abroad to learn about the historic adventures of Thor Heyerdahl. Following Heyerdahl’s world-renowned, sensational Kon-Tiki expedition in 1947, the Kon-Tiki Museum was established.

The original building was built in 1957 for the Kon-Tiki raft and extended in 1978 with the RA II section. On the technical side, the oldest part is especially in desperate need of renovation, with exposed and uninsulated concrete structures with severe heat loss and water leakage in basements.

Kon-Tiki Museum

Image: Snøhetta
Illustration of new museum and public garden.

A new museum to honor Heyerdahl’s adventurous spirit 

In the fall of 2020, The Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta completed a feasibility study for the Kon-Tiki Museum, with the aim to revitalize 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 allow visitors to experience and explore an unparalleled cultural heritage reflected in a contemporary context.

The Kon-Tiki Museum houses a 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. While Heyerdahl died in 2002, his thoughts, ideas, and research vibrantly live on, both within and outside of the museum.

Kon-Tiki Musuem

Image: Snøhetta
Illustration of new museum interior.

Garden created for exploration

In the true spirit of Heyerdahl, the new Kon-Tiki Museum aims to spark people’s curiosity and urge them to explore, particularly children. A large and lush green garden, surrounded by trees to both the east and the west, will create an intimate and contemplative space. The garden is designed for exploration, while also being well-suited for larger events and gatherings.

The museum’s new centerpiece will hold a large multipurpose 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 a lack of focus on ocean health.

Explorer with a passion for nature and animals 

Photo: Heiko Junge / NTB
Martin Biehl, director, Kon-Tiki Museum.

Heyerdahl was interested in preserving 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,” said 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 have carefully considered everything that can be reused. In this way, our aim is to avoid over-consumption and to thoughtfully preserve the uniqueness of a museum that sees 200,000 visitors every year. Curiosity through architecture can be encouraged through the creation of spaces and open flow that free enough mental space for each visitor, young people and grownups, to enjoy their own reflections as they walk along.” said Astrid Renata Van Veen, project leader and architect at Snøhetta Oslo.

Photo: Susanne A. Fiines
Astrid Renata Van Veen, project lead and architect.

Van Veen reflected 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 grownup doing things kids could identify themselves with, because his methods were low-key. Visiting the museum was magical and scary. I am sure every child remembers the threatening whale shark underneath the raft. Even as a grownup, I find it quite fascinating and engaging to walk through the dark, 30-meter-long manmade 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 lightweight 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.

Kon-Tiki raft

Image: Snøhetta and MIR
Illustration of interior of new museum with the Kon-Tiki raft.

Heyerdahl’s last great raft expedition took place in 1977 – 1978, when he sailed around the Arabian Peninsula in the reed boat Tigris.

Heyerdahl 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 archaeological findings from Heyerdahl’s expeditions.

See also:

“The Kon-Tiki Museum: Where Thor Heyerdahl meets the scientific community,” Eric Stavney, The Norwegian American, April 17, 2020.

“Romantic adventure and visual feast,” Victoria Hofmo, The Norwegian American, April 17, 2020.

This article originally appeared in the May 21, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.