Known to literary buffs as Elsinore in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Kronborg Castle in the Danish city of Helsingør is a UNESCO World Heritage site which is currently undergoing a 3-pronged renovation and redevelopment scheme involving the creation of two new buildings.
One of these new additions is the Danish National Maritime Museum by Bjarke Ingels Group with Kossmann.dejong, Rambøll, Freddy Madsen and KiBiSi. Opened by Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II earlier this month, the 6,000 sq m development explores Denmark’s rich maritime history in a variety of ways to engage with a large cross section of visitors.
Set in an disused dry dock, the cultural hub is placed below ground within 60-year-old-walls which remain untouched. Partner in Charge David Zahle explains: “For 5 years we have been working on transforming the old concrete dock into a modern museum, which required an archaeologist and spacecraft designer’s technical skills.
“The old lady is both fragile and tough; the new bridges are light and elegant. Building a museum below sea level has taken construction techniques never used in Denmark before.”
The bridges Zahle refers to are a series of three transparent double-level structures which span the dry dock and provide connections between different areas of the museum while animating the otherwise unused space. These sloped spaces also connect the old and new elements of the site.
One bridge hosts the museum’s auditorium, uniting the Culture Yard with Kronborg Castle, while another closes off the dock and acts as a promenade. These pedestrian channels snake in an angular ‘Z’ shape down the length of the former dry dock, breathing life into the site.
The main attractions of the Danish National Maritime Museum can be found above and below ground level, some 8m below sea level. These include: exhibition spaces conceptualised by Kossmann.dejong; a classroom; café; dock floor; and private offices.
Considering his latest completed scheme, Bjarke Ingels details: “By wrapping the old dock with the museum program we simultaneously preserve the heritage structure while transforming it to a courtyard, bringing daylight and air in to the heart of the submerged museum. Turning the dock inside out resolved a big dilemma.
“Out of respect for Hamlet’s Castle we needed to remain completely invisible and underground - but to be able to attract visitors we needed a strong public presence. Leaving the dock as an urban abyss provides the museum with an interior façade facing the void and at the same time offers the citizens of Helsingør a new public space sunken 8m below the level of the sea.”