Danish Maritime Museum, Helsingør, Denmark
Bjarke Ingels Group

The Danish Maritime Museum is a subterranean museum built around an abandoned dry dock adjacent to Kronborg Castle of Hamlet fame. For a century the site was a shipyard bustling with vessels and machinery, and the dry dock, forming the centrepiece of the museum’s underground building, is a legacy of this yard. Yet until recently, the dock lay in a state of neglect in a decayed post-industrial landscape, a desolate and rather ugly concrete relic of a lost industry.

Contrary to its name, the dry dock was full of water and posed severe geotechnical challenges. BIG proposed to install new walls at a distance around the old dock to maintain its structural integrity and place the museum in the space between the new and old dock walls, essentially wrapping it around the existing dry dock like a doughnut. A series of three two-level bridges span the dry dock, serving as short-cuts to different sections of the museum. A sloping zigzag bridge spanning the entire dry dock navigates visitors to the main entrance. This bridge creates a dynamic tension between old and new as visitors descend into the museum space overlooking the majestic surroundings above and below ground, while Denmark’s maritime history unfolds in a continuous motion. All floors—connecting exhibition spaces with the auditorium, classroom, offices, café and the dock floor within the museum—slope gently, so that visitors continually descend further below the water’s edge to immerse themselves in Danish maritime lore.

Completed in October 2013, the Danish Maritime 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 our cities . . . any city that has lost its former industries and is looking for ways to look forward without forgetting its past.

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