Inside Danish Architecture – Den Blå Planet

by | 08. Mar 2018

Article | Inside Danish Architecture | Public/ leisure

Den Blå Planet is located on the shores of Øresund in Kastrup, a southern suburb of Copenhagen. It was designed by Danish architecture practice 3XN and opened its doors in 2013. Den Blå Planet is the largest aquarium in Northern Europe, with a floor area of 10,000m2 and 7 million litres of water are contained within its tanks. It is home to 450 different species of fish and sea creatures, divided into 53 exhibits.

The project rehoused marine life from a former aquarium located in Charlottenlund. 3XN’s ambitious proposal, a whirlpool in plan, was so iconic it can be spotted from the air by passengers landing at the nearby Copenhagen Airport. The scheme also includes a 1.7 km pipeline which stretches out into the Øresund to capture seawater, used to cool both the tanks and public spaces.

The building was constructed from 54 unique load bearing steel frames to allow for the irregular curved geometry. Visitors to Den Blå Planet follow the longest arm of the whirlpool towards the entrance then into the central circular lobby at the eye of the vortex. From here the aquarium splits into 5 sections, each a unique microclimate for the fish and sea animals within.

Today, dynamic exhibition spaces are created through the combination of aquatic habitats, light, sound, projections, graphics and interactive exhibits. While Den Blå Planet has witnessed a levelling off of visitor numbers since its opening in 2013, it remains one of Copenhagen’s most visited attractions, also boasting late night opening hours.

An entire section of the aquarium is dedicated to the unique flora and fauna of Africa’s Great Lakes. The ceiling in this section forms a habitat for small mammals and birds including village weaver birds. Birds originating from the North Atlantic also inhabit a 15m tall artificial indoor seabird cliff.

Fish from warm ocean habitats, including a variety of large sharks, stingrays and eels, are housed within a huge 4,000,000-litre ocean tank. The tank is 16m tall and the glass 45cm thick. Visitors to the building will also encounter a 16m long shark tunnel.

Reflections from the water create constantly changing ripples of light that dance across the building’s surfaces, offering visitors the impression of staring up from the bottom of the ocean.

A large greenhouse within the building supports an artificial rainforest which has flourished since 2013 and is now home to crocodiles, freshwater stingrays and boa constrictors, among others. Many of the exhibits also make use of a lower level, which in the rainforest section forms an underground grotto with freshwater fish from river caves.

The facade of Den Blå Planet consists of over 33,000 small diamond-shaped aluminum shingles which shapeshift dependent upon from where they are viewed. From up close, the building envelope shimmers like the scales of a fish, while from afar its colours and shape are reminiscent of a great swirling wave. Despite the drama of the architecture, the fish and sea animals remain the stars of the show.

Black and white roof plan drawing of Den Blå Planet

Den Blå Planet plan drawing © 3XN

The focus of the arcspace ‘Inside Danish Architecture’ series is to get to know Danish architecture through the dynamic qualities of its spaces by combining text and video in a multimedia format. Each experiential walk-through draws on the qualities of light, sound and movement often overlooked by static photography. The projects covered in the series will be selected due to their contemporary cultural relevance and technological innovation, whether they are cutting-edge or retrospective. Check in again next month for the next edition of Inside Danish Architecture or for more videos from around the world check out ArchiShorts on YouTube.