Danish Maritime Museum – 2014 Global Awards for Excellence Finalist

Credit: Luca Santiago Mora

Credit: Luca Santiago Mora

About Danish Maritime Museum

Location: Helsingør, Denmark
Developer: Maritim Museums Byg A/S
Designer: BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group
Size: 1.85 acres

The Danish Maritime Museum is a 5,000 square meters (54,000 square feet) subterranean museum built around an abandoned dry dock adjacent to Kronborg Castle of Hamlet fame, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This site had both unique and many challenges to overcome: Firstly, although the museum was not allowed to protrude above ground level to preserve the view to Kronborg Castle, some sort of iconic roof structure over the dock was expected to maximize the museum’s attractiveness. Secondly, the museum program was twice the footprint of the dock, yet building on two levels would turn the museum into a concealed basement with no view. As the law requires all workspaces to have daylight and views, the staff would then have to be located in another building, disconnected from the museum. In addition, contrary to its name, the dry dock was full of water and would cave in if emptied. To keep it standing, one would have to build a new dock inside the dock to take the pressure, or install new dock walls around the dock. The architect’s idea of fitting the museum around the dry dock rather than inside and leaving the dry dock as a void space traversed by bridges is a clear solution to the inherent dilemmas of the site.

Although it faced many complex obstacles, the museum shows an understanding of its unique historic and spatial context as it seeks to reflect Denmark’s historical and contemporary role as one of the world’s leading maritime nations. The museum demonstrates that by proactively cross-breeding public infrastructure – a dry dock – with social programs, we can inject new urban life forms into the heart of any city that has lost its former industries and is looking for ways to look forward without forgetting its past.

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