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Designed by BIG


Elsinore, Denmark


Basically, the job description was something like this: Design a unique building of 4,000 cubic metres in an eight-metre deep dry dock in the former Elsinore Shipyard. The building could not be more than a meter above the surface of the earth. And this is what they did - or at least four of the architectural firms that submitted bids for the project. The fifth firm, however, opted to go in a wholly different direction.

"Out of the box"
Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) thought quite literally "out of the box" and chose to place the museum on the outside - all the way around the docks. They ran away with the project. "Once we had seen the submitted projects, there was never any doubt. Four of the submissions were perfectly adequate, but the fifth was quite simply brilliant," says the museum's curator and historian, Benjamin Asmussen. It took seven years to realise the project, and there were many challenges along the way. "Just drying out the docks without harming Kronborg, which is of course a UNESCO-listed heritage site, was incredibly difficult," explains press and communications officer Signe Lundgren, as she shows us around.

The Kronborg Bridge
After dropping down an entire storey, you are led through the narrow exhibition hallways all the way around the dock, and via zigzag footbridges of glass and steel across to the dock room. In the middle of all of this is the Kronborg Bridge, where the museum's conference room is situated. "It is the heart of the museum and perhaps the most beautiful room in the building. It's also its most photographed," Lundgren continues, and highlights this point by mentioning that this is where most pictures are taken which then appear on social media sites.

In a triangle, a sea of Series 7™ oak shells preside over a matching oak floor, fixed to 24 karat gold coated columns. "Oak meets gold meets oak," says Lundgren, continuing: "It is only here in the auditorium where  gold coating has been used, and this warm material, with its maritime associations, makes a welcome contrast to all the cold glass and aluminium that flows through the rest of the museum's construction. And not least to the surrounding dock, which is made of raw concrete." The conference room, with its beautiful chairs, functions as intended. "We've already had 39 arrangements, and we've only been open for four months," says Lundgren, as she demonstrates how the room can be closed off completely from the rest of the museum with the aid of sound-absorbing blackout curtains.

Worth knowing
The Danish Maritime Museum is designed by the architectural firm BIG Bjarke Ingels Group. The museum is located underground around the old dry dock of Elsinore Shipyard. BIG has therefore preserved the old dock as a historical, industrial monument and left the dock standing as an open, outdoor exhibition room and event space. The building has been constructed by the Maritim Museum's Fund with support from a number of donations and with Maritim Museums Byg ApS as the owner. The total price has reached several hundred million Danish kroner. The Danish Maritime Museum was officially opened by the museum's protector, H.M. Queen Margrethe II, on 5 October 2013. During its first four months of opening, the museum welcomed almost 40,000 visitors. The target is to reach 100,000 visitors a year. The museum's total area is 6,500 cubic metres. The building has received glowing reviews in the Danish press, and has won several prizes among these the ArchDaily's "Building of the Year" competition in the category Cultural Architecture in 2015.

Location; Elsinore, Denmark
Project completed: 2013 
Architect: Bjarke Ingels Group
Category: Culture
Areas: Auditorium
Products: Series 7™