Circulating Snøhetta

John Hill
1. November 2018
Photo: Calle Huth/Studio Illegal

New banknotes for Norges Bank, the central bank of Norway, were recently put into circulation. Designed by Snøhetta and Metric Design, the colorful new banknotes are meant to express the importance of the sea in Norwegian national identity.

Snøhetta and Metric Design were selected in 2014 to design the new banknote series, consisting of 50-, 100-, 200-, 500-, and 1000-kroner notes. (For reference, the 50-kroner note is worth roughly 5 Euros.) Metric Design and illustrator Terje Tønnesen developed the designs for the obverse (front) faces of the banknotes, while Snøhetta was responsible for the reverse (back) sides. The former's allusion to the sea is more direct, with images of boats, fish, lighthouses, and waves.

Photo: Calle Huth/Studio Illegal

Snøhetta's nautical themes, on the other hand, are more abstract, using pixelated patterns to explore the boundaries between sea and land in a contemporary manner. The architecture firm translated graphics inspired by ancient mosaics of colored glass or stone into "the mosaics of our time: the pixels." Furthermore, the patterns on the banknotes reference the Beaufort scale, which measures wind speed: the 50-kroner note expresses gentle waves, while the 1000-kroner note is akin to gale-force winds. The imagery works in a gradient from soft to strong as the amount increases.

Photo: Calle Huth/Studio Illegal

Although the new banknotes are beautiful, the impetus behind the undertaking was to add more security features and make the kroners more difficult to counterfeit. These features, many enabled by printing on cotton paper strengthened for durability, include: a "floating" ring visible when held at an angle; an anchor chain that appears to move when tilted; a watermark in the form of an Atlantic puffin; a security thread visible when held up to the light; an iridescent effect on the reverse side; a fluorescent print when seen under UV light; and microlettering visible with a magnifying glass.

50-krone note with Metric Design's front on the right and Snøhetta's back on the left (Photo: Norges Bank)

The 100- and 200-kroner notes were put into circulation on 30 May 2017, while the same happened for the 50- and 500-kroner notes on 18 October 2019. Last to come will be the 1000-kroner note, which will be put into circulation in the fourth quarter of 2019. In all cases, the old banknotes can be used for only one year from the date of issuance of the new banknotes, after which the designs by Snøhetta and Metric Design will be it for the few cash-carrying Norwegians.

500-krone note with Metric Design's front on the right and Snøhetta's back on the left (Photo: Norges Bank)

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