A sanctuary situated on a dramatic war-history site on Denmark’s west coast, this museum has transformed a never-completed German bunker into a groundbreaking cultural complex. Antithetical to the dark days of World War II occupation and the heaviness of the cement bunker, the architects’ delicate intervention adds a central public square surrounded by light-filled spaces embedded in the landscape.
The museum is situated in the city of Blåvand on the Jutland peninsula within Wadden Sea National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Because the park contains the world’s largest unbroken system of intertidal sand and mud flats, the project was subject to strict preservation rules. Since the museum was built below ground, to lessen its impact on the region, it appears from a distance to be a natural sand dune.
Visitors approach the museum on winding pathways lined with heath, eventually transitioning into a rigid intersection as they approach the bunker. Four simple incisions provide access to a sunken central courtyard leading to four discrete gallery spaces. Though they are carved directly into the sand, 20-foot glass façades allow ample daylight to flood the underground spaces.
The project gathered four unique and independent institutions under one roof: an existing war-focused bunker museum, an amber museum, a local history museum, and a gallery dedicated to special exhibitions. Each housed in its own gallery, they all connect to the bunker through a tunnel where visitors can explore an interactive exhibit that reveals how the bunker would have functioned upon its completion.
In addition to serving as a portal to the Danish coast’s rich history and maintaining the protected shorelands, the project delivers a much-needed attraction to support year-round tourism. Drawn to Blåvand’s verdant landscapes and peaceful dunes, the area receives Denmark’s second most annual holiday visits, behind only Copenhagen. Response to the museum has been overwhelmingly positive, exceeding the client’s anticipated goal of 100,000 annual visitors just two months after it opened in June 2017.