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A WWII bunker becomes a museum along Denmark’s coast

BIG’s design of this cultural center is the “antithesis” of the fortress.

July 13, 2017 |

TIRPITZ museum integrates into Denmark's coastline and the bunker that was built to protect it from attack. Image: Mike Bink

Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), in partnership with Varde Museums and Tinker Imagineers, has transformed and expanded a historic German World War II bunker into a 2,800-sm (30,138-sf) cultural complex called TIRPITZ, embedded into the protected shoreline of Blåvand along Denmark’s western coast.

The facility, which opened earlier this month, expects to attract 100,000 visitors annually. It is designed as a subtle counterpoint to the stark construction of the original artillery fortress.

The complex appears at the intersection between a series of landscape cuts. Its exterior paths cut into the dunes, and descend into a central clearing that brings daylight and air into the complex.

Six-meter-tall glass panels face an outdoor central courtyard that provides visitors with access into three permanent and one temporary underground galleries, designed by Tinker Imagineers.

These include “Army of Concrete,” which recounts human stories against the backdrop of Hitler’s massive defense project, the Atlantic Wall, of which this bunker was a component. “Gold of West Coast” purports to be Western Europe’s most comprehensive exhibit of amber, presented in a forest-like setting complete with recreations of 40-million-year-old trees weeping resin. And “West Coast Stories” re-enacts 100,000 years west coast history, and turns into a nighttime 4D theater twice an hour.

The walls of the exhibition rooms are made of concrete that was cast onsite. They support roof decks—engineered by the Swiss firm Lüchinger+Meyer—that cantilever out by 36 meters. The largest roof deck weighs nearly 1.1 tons.

Visitors can access the inside of the bunker through a tunnel that connects it to the underground gallery space. Image: Erik Bar


From the sunken galleries, visitors access the bunker through a tunnel. In the dark, they can play with light and shadowing that reveal how the bunker once functioned.

“TIRPITZ is a unique opportunity to combine nature and culrture in a spectacular fashion,” says Erik Bär, Tinker Imagineers’ Partner and Director.

The Building Team included AKT, Kloosterboer Décor, BIG IDEAS, Fundendt, COWI, Svend Old Hansen, Gade & Mortenson Akustik, Bach Landskap, Ingeniøgruppen syd, Kjæhr & Trillingsguuard, and Pelcom.

TIRPITZ bunker in Denmark began construction in 1944 as part of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall defenses that stretched from Nordkapp, Norway, to the Pyrenees. It was meant to protect the sea route to Esberj harbor. The war ended before the bunker was completed, and it was converted into a small museum.

Seventy years later, construction of the TIRPITZ cultural center commenced. Its financiers include A.P. Møller and Chastine Mc-Kinney Møller Foundation, Nordea Foundation, Augustinus Foundation, and Varde Municipality.

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