The Blue Planet

by | 11. Jul 2012

Cultural | Project

The Blue Planet. Exterior view. Photo by Adam Mørk

By Jakob Harry Hybel

Dramatically placed a few meters above terrain overlooking the Øresund strait, Denmark’s new national aquarium in Copenhagen – The Blue Planet -acts as a connecting link between land and sea. The swirling curves of the building draws the visitors inside, just like the circulating currents of the whirlpool that inspired its shape.

The aquarium complex is designed by Danish architects 3XN, known for several high-profile buildings in the Copenhagen area, but The Blue Planet is perhaps their most ambitious and definitely their most expressive.

The building appears to emerge from a pool of water that reflects its shimmering shapes. Along the longest arm of the whirlpool – the one that extends out to greet you when you arrive – stretches a promenade, carrying visitors across the water. The arm then folds upwards and turns into a sheltering, cantilevered roof. Here you enter the maelstrom.


The Blue Planet. View of the entrance. Photo by Adam Mørk

Centrifugal Exhibition Space

Inside, all the rooms of the building converge towards its central atrium. From this navigation hub, visitors can choose which part of the building they want to explore. There are four wings, each with their own specific focus ranging from the exotic (Africa’s lakes and the Amazon River) to the local (the Faroe Island’s bird cliffs and the Øresund strait right outside the aquarium).

By separating the different exhibits into separate wings, the architects have sought to prevent visitors from following a linear path through the aquarium and creating congestion by the tanks containing the facility’s most popular animals. In addition, because of the spiraling floor plan, the exhibition spaces alternate in size, which makes for a varied experience for the visitors, as they move from narrow corridors into vast, open spaces.

Nature at the Center of Attention

While the building’s exterior is made to impress with its warped shapes and shiny scale-like aluminum cladding, the interior is contrastingly understated. Stepping inside the aquarium, the the flashiness of the container is overshadowed by the hypnotic blue gleam of the massive tanks.  The interior walls have been painted in dark tones making the flickering reflections of the fish tanks the predominant source of light.

Our idea was to try and tell the story of what is inside from the outside and to play with water in shaping the building. So the image of a whirlpool was about trying to suck people into the building. Down into the water. Down into the element of the fish.
/ Kim Herforth Nielsen, 3XN

More Than Meets the Eye

The Blue Planet is the largest aquarium in Northern Europe, with over 20,000 fish in tanks containing a staggering 7 million litres of water. Although this does not exactly sound sustainable in terms of resource use, the aquarium claims it is just that.

Thanks to a sophisticated pump- and filtration system carefully concealed in the structure’s basement, sea water can be drawn in directly from the Øresund strait. It is then filtered and recycled in a closed loop system, but some of it is also used to keep the entire facility cool.

So besides its primary function of being a spectacular landmark, the Blue Planet sets a fine example on how sustainability and spectacularly dynamic form are not mutually exclusive.


The Blue Planet. Interior view of the fish tanks. Photo by Adam Mørk


The Blue Planet. Glass-covered tunnel. Photo by Adam Mørk   



The Blue Planet. Photo by Adam Mørk



The Blue Planet. Detail of the facade. Photo by Adam Mørk


The Blue Planet. Detail of the facade. Photo by Adam Mørk



The Blue Planet. Aerial view. Photo by Adam Mørk


The Blue Planet. Aerial view. Photo by Adam Mørk


The Blue Planet. Photo by CphCph



The Blue Planet. Photo by CphCph


The Blue Planet. Photo by CphCph



The Blue Planet. Photo by CphCph



The Blue Planet. Photo by CphCph



The Blue Planet. Photo by CphCph


The Blue Planet. Concept diagram. Image courtesy of 3XN



The Blue Planet. Model photo courtesy of 3XN


The Blue Planet. Plan. Drawing courtesy of 3XN


The Blue Planet. Roof plan. Drawing courtesy of 3XN


The Blue Planet. Eastern facade. Drawing courtesy of 3XN


The Blue Planet. Southern facade. Drawing courtesy of 3XN


The Blue Planet. Section. Drawing courtesy of 3XN



The Blue Planet. Section. Drawing courtesy of 3XN



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