The Danish National Maritime Museum in Helsingør by BIG

Bjarke Ingels: 'the old dock becomes a courtyard and the heart of the submerged museum'

by Malcolm Clark
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Ribbon Cutting on October 5 for the latest work designed by BIG - Bjarke Ingels Group. The Danish National Maritime Museum, situated at Helsingør, next to one of the most important historic buildings in Denmark, the Kronborg Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, also known as Hamlet's castle.

The work carried out by BIG, in collaboration with Kossmann.dejong, Rambøll, Freddy Madsen and KiBiSi, is part of a larger program, which envisages the restoration of the castle and the construction of two new buildings. The galleries of the museum, define a continuous path positioned 8 meters below sea level: three double- level walkways surround the old dock, which dates back some sixty years, serving both as an urban hinge and as passages to reach the different sections of the new exhibition area.

Bjarke Ingels explains the crucial role of the dock in the project, as the fulcrum of the entire exhibition space: “(...) 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.”

A bridge marks the main entrance to the museum, allowing the dialogue between the building and the context and connecting old and new. All levels that make up the galleries are slightly inclined: they host emotional and sculptural spaces and link the exhibition areas with the auditorium, classrooms, offices, the cafeteria and the dock level. BIG has worked for 5 years on transforming an old concrete pier into contemporary architecture, in a project that has required great technical skills and maximum respect for the existing archaeological heritage.

The exhibition itinerary has been designed by Dutch exhibition design office Kossmann.dejong, who conceived a metaphor of the journey, starting from the universal desire to explore distant horizons and venture into maritime experiences, through the issues related to the notions of port, navigation, war and trade, to the shipping industry, which has always characterized the history of Denmark.

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    Danish National Maritime Museum 195

    Danish National Maritime Museum

    Elsinore / Denmark / 2013