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BIG completes Danish maritime museum

[FIRST LOOK + PLANS] BIG has revealed images of its recently completed Danish maritime museum on the outskirts of Copenhagen

The 6,000m² museum next to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Denmark’s Kronborg Castle is part of a masterplan which includes the renovation of the castle and a further two new buildings.

The museum’s galleries have been placed within a 60 year old dock. Described by the Danish architects as ‘an open, outdoor area where visitors experience the scale of ship building’, the walls of the dock have been left untouched with the galleries arranged around the outside.

Three bridges have also been created, spanning the dry dock and linking it with the nearby castle.

The architect’s view

For five years we’ve been working on transforming the old concrete dock into a modern museum, which required an archaeologist care and a spacecraft designer’s technical skills. The old lady is both fragile and tough; the new bridges are light and elegant. Building a museum below sea level has taken construction techniques never used in Denmark before. The old concrete dock with its 1.5m thick walls and 2.5m thick floor has been cut open and reassembled as a modern and precise museum facility.

We needed an archaeologist care and a spacecraft designer’s technical skills

The steel bridges were produced in giant sections on a Chinese steel wharf and transported to Denmark on the biggest ship that has ever docked in Helsingør. The steel sections weigh up to 100 tons a piece and are lifted on site by the two largest mobile cranes in northern Europe.

By wrapping the old dock with the museum program we simultaneously preserve the heritage structure while transforming it to a courtyard bringing daylight and air in to the heart of the submerged museum. Turning the dock inside out resolved a big dilemma: Out of respect for Hamlet’s Castle we needed to remain completely invisible and underground – but to be able to attract visitors we needed a strong public presence. Leaving the dock as an urban abyss provides the museum with an interior façade facing the void and at the same time offers the citizens of Helsingør a new public space sunken eight metres below the level of the sea.

Project data

Location Copenhagen, Denmark
Type of project museum 
Client Maritime Museum Build
Architect BIG
Exhibition designer Kossmann.dejong 
Client consultant Alectia
Structural engineer Ramboll
Product designer KiBiSi
M&E consultant Ramboll
Completion date October 2013
Gross internal floor area 6,000m²

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