Denmark’s maritime history is long enough that its Kronborg Castle in Helsingør—originally built in the 1420s as a fortified toll collection point between the Baltic and North Seas—earned a role in Shakespeare’s Hamlet as the play’s setting, Elsinore. And the history of the UNESCO World Heritage site itself could not be ignored when plans emerged that would place a new museum celebrating the country’s nautical traditions in a dry dock that is located less than 1,000 feet from the castle.

In response to an invited competition, Danish architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) proposed building a subterranean museum that used the existing dry dock footprint for its interior walls. Shaped like a rectangular doughnut in plan, the museum would preserve the dry dock as its open-space centerpiece with the added benefit of allowing natural light into the interiors. With this proposal, BIG won the competition. The museum was completed in October 2013.

The exterior electric lighting scheme calls out the architectural elements, by using white LEDs to signify land and blue LEDs to signify water. At night, white LEDs line the pedestrian bridges to the museum and serve as a visual indication of the castle beyond. These bridges serve a dual purpose, first as the rooftops of the double-height, glass-enclosed linkages that connect the galleries across the dry dock—one of which houses a sloping auditorium—and second as bracing for the walls that were once supported by water within the dock.

Blue LEDs mark the dry dock’s once-exiting waterline, and floodlights fill the ship-shaped cavity with cool tones of blue and white. Complying with local regulations, light from within does not spill more than 30 feet, in deference to Kronborg Castle.

The exhibit lighting uses 55W LED fixtures. Projected images animate blank walls, and a buoy with internal sources casts coordinates on the floor. From exterior to interior, visitors and displays alike are washed in a cool glow.

Jury Comments
The lighting respects the view of the castle.
There’s a wonderful contrast between the color temperatures of the daylighting and electric lighting.

The subterranean museum surrounds a former dry dock less than 1,000 feet from Kronborg Castle (back left), a protected UNESCO heritage site.
Luca Santiago Mora The subterranean museum surrounds a former dry dock less than 1,000 feet from Kronborg Castle (back left), a protected UNESCO heritage site.

Sloped bridges cross the void of the former dry dock, with embedded white LEDs illuminating the pathways.
Luca Santiago Mora Sloped bridges cross the void of the former dry dock, with embedded white LEDs illuminating the pathways.

Floor-to-ceiling glazed apertures in the dry dock’s concrete walls allow daylighting and ventilation to reach the café (shown here), the auditorium (across the courtyard), and offices.
Rasmus Hjortshoj Floor-to-ceiling glazed apertures in the dry dock’s concrete walls allow daylighting and ventilation to reach the café (shown here), the auditorium (across the courtyard), and offices.

The auditorium
Luca Santiago Mora The auditorium

Blue LEDs mark the former waterline of the dry dock.
Luca Santiago Mora Blue LEDs mark the former waterline of the dry dock.

At night, the museum takes on a new appearance as it is washed in blue and white light.
Luca Santiago Mora At night, the museum takes on a new appearance as it is washed in blue and white light.

White LEDs light the path toward Kronborg Castle.
Luca Santiago Mora White LEDs light the path toward Kronborg Castle.

Projected seascape images on the gallery walls add a dynamic lighting element while giving visitors the feeling that they are at sea.
Thijs Wolzak Projected seascape images on the gallery walls add a dynamic lighting element while giving visitors the feeling that they are at sea.

In the first gallery, lighting is projected from a buoy and casts navigational coordinates on the floor, setting the stage for the visitors "maritime" journey.
Thijs Wolzak In the first gallery, lighting is projected from a buoy and casts navigational coordinates on the floor, setting the stage for the visitors "maritime" journey.

In the galleries, a minimum number of luminaires light the vitrine displays, while video installations are projected onto the walls.
Thijs Wolzak In the galleries, a minimum number of luminaires light the vitrine displays, while video installations are projected onto the walls.

The exhibits are designed to engage visitors with dynamic displays of images and objects.
Courtesy Thijs Wolzak The exhibits are designed to engage visitors with dynamic displays of images and objects.

The Danish National Maritime Museum glows from within at night.
Luca Santiago Mora The Danish National Maritime Museum glows from within at night.

Details
Project  Danish National Maritime Museum, Helsingør, Denmark
Entrant  BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group)
Owner/Client  Maritime Museums Byg ApS
Architect/Lighting Designer  BIG, Valby, Denmark
Team Members  Bjarke Ingels, David Zahle, Annette Jensen, Jeppe Ecklon, Karsten Hammer Hansen, Rasmus Rodam, Rune Hansen, John Pries Jensen, Henrik Kania, Ariel Norback Wallner, Rasmus Pedersen, Dennis Rasmussen, Jan Magasanik, Alina Tamosiunaite, Alysen Hiller, Ana Merino, Andy Yu, Christian Alvarez, Claudio Moretti, Felicia Guldberg, Gül Ertekin, Johan Cool, Jonas Pattern, Kirstine Ragnhild, Malte Chloe, Marc Jay, Maria Mavriku, Masatoshi Oka, Oana Simionescu, Pablo Labra, Peter Rieff, Qianyi Lim, Sara Sosio, Sebastian Latz, Tina Lund Højgaard, Tina Troster, Todd Bennet, Xi Chen, Xing Xiong, Xu Li
Photographer  Luca Santiago Mora
Project Size  77,500 square feet Project Cost: $55 million
Lighting Costs  $500,000
Watts per Square Foot  0.458
Code Compliance  BR 10 (Danish Energy Code)
Manufacturer  Delux

To see all of the other winners of the 2014 AL Light & Architecture Design Awards, click here.