I am a self-proclaimed fanatic for maritime architecture. Especially considering that nearly all the projects I chose to pursue in graduate school were maritime related. So naturally, visiting BIG's Maritime Museum in Helsingør was basically a religious experience for me. This is the second time I have been to the museum, though this was the first time I actually toured the exhibit. The concept of this project was to preserve the historic dry dock by building the new museum around the monumental void. The museum is absolutely pertinent to the role of architectural preservation in post-industrial cities. This project is a powerful example of how modern architecture can carefully integrate with a post-industrial site contributing to the broader urban context without denying the historical significance of an architectural relic.
What is unique about this project is that the building is entirely sub-terranean. This quality adds to the exhibit about life as a mariner at sea. The interior spaces share the wall of the dry dock as you meander through the exhibit making it feel like you are walking around the hull of a ship. The building is not a striking object placed blissfully in the landscape. Certainly, the the angled volumes that pierce the dry dock are striking, but they are arguablly appropriate because they connect the public to the castle grounds on the ground level while offering vantages inside this industrial tomb.
With that said, this building is not without its faults. This is a modern architectural triumph that as all works have endured the torment of weather and age. Where this building has faltered is at the entry ramp. There is a notice given at the top of the ramp that 'all traffic must be conducted on the black (rubber) mat.' The reason is because the building is uniformly wrapped in aluminum siding which is slippery during the winter months of the year. Even the interior of the building is lined with the same aluminum paneling. It is quite stunning in most areas, except where it is used as a roofing material. What is also shown in the image above is that the panels have lifted at the corners. The rivets were losing their strength where the panels incurred water infiltration and the fix being used was of course duck-tape.
Another aspect of the project is the intention to use glazing with little to no mullions to allow the architecture to appear invisible against the backdrop of the historic site. To achieve this they used the glass as a structural element. Unfortunately, I failed to take a picture of the detail, but essentially they ran thick strips of glass perpendicular to the glazing wall at the seams to act as a T angle. I found two panels that had shattered and marked with caution tape, though they are tempered glass so they were intact. But I could not figure out what had happened that made these panels fail.
The current exhibit was 'sex at sea.' It was admittedly a dark exhibit. But I frequent all exhibits related to the maritime culture so clearly I would recommend making the trek to Helsingør when visiting Copenhagen. The city is beautiful and quaint with the Sweden to Denmark fairy line departing every half hour. Next to the museum is the Kronborg Castle which is referenced in Hamlet. The castle once tolled ships passage into the Baltic Sea. Sweden can be seen just across the waterway. Helsingøris only a 40min travel by S-Train from Copenhagen.