BIG’s latest project carves an ‘invisible museum’ from the undulating landscape of Blåvand in Western Denmark, concealing its architecture whilst revealing the second world war history of the area. Four linear incisions lead visitors beneath the dunes and into the Tirpitz museum – a subterranean territory of intersecting staircases, moving walls and wartime artifacts.
Tirpitz provides 2,800 m2 of accommodation for 3 independent museums and one special exhibition gallery, each requiring their own access, opening hours and narrative. This separation is the primary justification for the project’s organization – defined by four linear axis that converge in a central square from which the museums are entered. These axis divide the site into four segments, each containing an independent museum, whilst also connecting them and bringing natural light to their largely subterranean exhibition spaces.
The site is significant due to the presence of a monolithic concrete bunker built by German forces during the second world war, and the project amplifies the isolation and potency of this structure by concealing itself beneath an adjacent sand dune. Access to this bunker is only granted when visitors have ventured around the museums and through an underground tunnel which leads back to the interior of the original Tirpitz structure.
“The architecture of the Tirpitz is the antithesis to the world war two bunker. The heavy hermetic object is countered by the inviting lightness and openness of the new museum.” BIG founder Bjarke Ingels.
Existing pathways weave between the dunes towards the building, before cutting through the landscape and becoming deep passageways contained within large concrete retaining walls. The offsetting of these axis prevents sightlines crossing over the whole site, and rather interrupts them with the glass facades of the sunken square – a ‘cultural meeting place’ that invites visitors to explore the site’s hidden history.
6 meter tall windows form the elevations of the four separate blocks, offering daylight, air and views into the exhibition spaces below. The walls of the galleries are formed from a rough cast-in-situ concrete which supports impressive 36 meter cantilevering roof decks engineered by Swiss firm Lüchinger+Meyer. These hold both the uninterrupted glass facades beneath and a mass of sand and heath above, which blends into the surrounding dunes and allows visitors to wander across the roofscape.
The building’s concealment is perhaps its most successful attribute; an idea reminiscent of BIG’s 2013 Danish National Maritime Museum that was buried within a dry dock to maintain views of the neighboring Kronborg castle. By restricting themselves of extensive external facade, BIG have been challenged to find other ways to develop an architectural style reliant on form and image. They have done so by resolving a subterranean complexity, with folding walls, shifting floor planes and intersecting staircases inducing a sense of disorientation that is architecturally powerful.
The ‘image’ of the project is therefore not granted from within the surrounding landscape but rather from above, from where the diagrammatic clarity of the intersecting entry passages becomes clear. With this fulfilling the market requirement for a clickbait iconicity, BIG have then be free to design a dynamic, engaging and provocative museum space which is not dependent on its external expression. This refreshing level of sensitivity towards both the surrounding landscape and its dark heritage offers Tirpitz an architectural maturity that stands out within BIG’s portfolio of work. The project seems evocative of the museum’s subject matter, with its organization, its construction and its concealment all invoking a sense of discovery that is central to the enduring fascination with architectural heritage like the Tirpitz bunker.
|ARCHITECT||Bjarke Ingels Group