The Danish National Maritime Museum has now relocated to a sunken space in an old dry dock, thanks to the quirky minds of BIG — and steel bridges produced in giant sections on a Chinese wharf
Since 1915, Kronborg Castle, perhaps better known as the inspiration for Hamlet’s castle in one of Shakespeare’s best-remembered plays, had long been the home of the Danish National Maritime Museum, where the story of Denmark as one of the world’s leading maritime nations was told. In 2000, however, the castle was designated by Unesco as a World Heritage Site, meaning the museum had no choice but to relocate.
It didn’t have to look far: no further, in fact, than the adjacent dry dock, first built in the 1950s and located in Helsingør (or Elsinore in Shakespeare’s Hamlet), 50 kilometres north of Copenhagen. A design competition was held to determine the design of the new museum, with Danish architectural practice Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) winning with a literally ground-breaking proposal.
In order not to obstruct the views of the castle, BIG daringly proposed submerging the whole property below ground by wrapping the dry dock with the museum programme, transforming the dock into a courtyard – an open, outdoor area where visitors experience the scale of ship-building – at the same time offering the citizens of Helsingør a new public space sunk eight metres below sea-level.
“Out of respect for Hamlet’s castle, the museum needs to remain completely invisible, but it needs a strong public presence to be able to attract visitors – turning the dock inside-out has resolved this big dilemma,” says Bjarke Ingels, founding partner of BIG