The fjord at the new Nordic Museum in Seattle's Ballard may not have ocean water flowing through it, but still serves as a symbolic architectural focal point for the $45-million, 57,000-sq-ft building.

The museum and cultural center on Market Street opens May 5 with a celebration, offering exhibition and educational space organized around the linear fjord meant to weave together Nordic stories and Nordic-American experiences. Bridges cross the figurative fjord, meant to bring verticality and movement to the space and conjure thoughts of migration.

“The museum is arranged around a two-story space, evoking the Nordic fjords, that connects the museum on the first floor and yet divides the Nordic and Nordic-American exhibits on the second floor with bridges that connect between them,” Richard Franko, lead designer for the Nordic Museum and partner and architect for Seattle-based Mithun, tells ENR. “It’s a unique architectural embodiment of the exhibit flow and concept.”

Designed by Franko and Mithun, Seattle’s Magnusson Klemencic Associates was also involved a project that targeted LEED Silver.

A vertically striated zinc skin wraps the exterior with a wave-like shape, while the fjord walls inside include faceted white planes meant to signify glacial origins. The museum also includes an auditorium and climate-controlled storage for the museum’s art collection. Its active social areas, such as café, store and classrooms, remain permeable to the street and pedestrians, a contrast to the walls of the exhibit areas.

When opened in 1980, the museum was located inside a 1907 structure leased from the Seattle School District. In 2009, the museum and its donors purchased the Market Street site and plans were approved for the new museum in 2012.

Follow Tim Newcomb on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.