The Skjern River Pump Stations
The Skjern River Pump Stations designed by Johansen Skovsted Arkitekter was realised as an opportunity to revitalise three existing but out of use utilitarian concrete pump stations. These objects were conceived in the late 1960’s in order to facilitate the large land reclamation project in the area through an attempt to straighten out the Skjern River. As a result of this project, a large number of environmental problems were created from this alignment, which lead to the river being restored to its original run in 2002. Since, a vast and undisturbed natural area has reappeared in it’s true glory, which has since attracted many visitors back to the rivers edge.
The original pump stations were detailed alike, although being of different sizes and shapes. These original stations were dressed in concrete relief, reflecting an architectural wave of the 60’s. After their disuse, they stood unsentimentally raw in the landscape. The materiality and vertical relief of the concrete facades loosely reminiscent of the surrounding ploughed furrows of the fields, and profiles of the soil that control the run of the river. They originally contained underground water chambers, large halls for the pumps, storage rooms and high voltage rooms. The original machinery in the pump halls were removed from operation and new pumps were located in the underground water chambers. This, as a result, left a resulting level of each station free of use. This spatial leftover in combination with the revitalisation and activation of the surrounding landscape became the catalyst for the exciting rehabilitation of these now folly-like river pump stations.
Facilitating the conversion of the pump stations along the Skjern River, a series of objectives were delivered by Johansen Skovsted. The principal trial was to work with and assay the massive and heavy character of the stations, to both challenge and enhance their figure in the landscape. Secondly, a necessity to add a human scale and more inviting materiality to their new use and ensuring a united whole was maintained between the differently sized stations was desired.
A framework was arranged to facilitate the new life of the area; rebuilding and extending the over ground parts of the three pump stations, ‘in the form of exhibition spaces, indoor and outdoor viewpoints to look out over the landscape, rooms for different kinds of events and accessibility for the disabled.’ These extensions and the new interior building elements were built of mainly simple wooden constructions. The wood had received a natural high-pressure treatment, in which the use of chemicals was avoided to protect the heartwood against decay. This allowed the new additions to be constructed and fitted on site without the use of additional materials to cover the end grain. A constructed result that is a low maintenance and clever solution for this harsh environment by the North Sea. These simple wooden additions mimic the dimensions and rhythm of the original concrete reliefs of the old pump stations. Creating a vernacular link between the old structure and the new, where both generations of architectural interventions can be seen as unified and intended. The new addition and materials add a differing and more welcoming texture, in addition a human scale that beings to swallow the monolithic presence and once unreceptive nature of the original construction.
Along with the new wooden construction and tacking on to the old structure, new portal doors and windows create thresholds that open non-existent vistas towards the landscape; new brick construction and windows show gestural flitters of dark terracotta and a muted teal, highlighting details and moments of verticality in the construction. This allows the buildings to be read in a new context, with small moments leading the user through the building and in between the re-purposed spaces. The observation decks on the upper levels reflect the most significant changes where small angular partition walls help divide the large space into digestible portions with directive views out towards the now flourishing landscape.
This project by Johansen Skovsted Arkitekter exists as an example of how pursuing a transformation of a negative architectural heritage can construct a purposeful way of mediating a repressed or failed past with a new contemporary existence and use. The old pump stations once sat drained of colour, use and human scale in the landscape. Now, revitalised, these structures promise a refuge and potential for these objects to re-facilitate the enjoyment of the ground they sit in.
Client: Ringkøbing-Skjern Kommune
Project funded by: Realdania – Stedet Tæller and LAG-Ringkøbing-Skjern
Gross floor area: 570 m2
Architects: Johansen Skovsted Arkitekter
In collaboration with: Bertelsen & Scheving Arkitekter ApS
Engineer: Ingeniørgruppen Vestjylland ApS
Contractor: Hansen & Larsen A/S
Photos: Rasmus Norlander
|ARCHITECT||Johansen Skovsted Arkitekter|