The Blue Planet
By Jakob Harry Hybel
Dramatically placed a few meters above terrain overlooking the Øresund strait, Denmark's new national aquarium in Copenhagen, The Blue Planet, stands as a connecting link between land and sea. The swirling curves of the building draws the visitors inside, just like the circulating currents of the whirlpool that inspired its shape.
The aquarium complex is designed by Danish architects 3XN, known for several high-profile buildings in the Copenhagen area, but The Blue Planet is perhaps their most ambitious and definitely their most expressive.
The building appears to emerge from a pool of
water that reflects its shimmering shapes. Along the longest arm of
the whirlpool - the one that extends out to greet you when you
arrive - stretches a promenade, carrying visitors across the water.
The arm then folds upwards and turns into a cantilevered roof,
which shelters from the wind and weather. It is here you enter the
Centrifugal Exhibition Space
Inside, all the building's rooms converge towards its central atrium. From this hub of navigation, the visitors can choose which part of the building they want to explore. There are four wings, each with their own specific focus ranging from the geographically exotic - Africa's lakes and the Amazon River - to the more local - the Faroe Island's bird cliffs and the Øresund strait right outside the aquarium.
By separating exhibits into separate wings, the
architects have wisely sought to prevent visitors from following a
linear path through the aquarium and creating congestion by the
tanks containing the facility's most popular animals. In addition,
because of the spiraling floor plan, the exhibition spaces
alternate in size, which makes for a hugely varied experience for
the visitors, as they move from narrow corridors into vast, open
The Creatures of the Sea at the Center of Attention
While the building's exterior is indeed impressive with its warped shapes and shiny scale-like aluminum cladding, it is the interior that truly blows your socks off. Stepping inside the aquarium, the architecture of the container is completely overshadowed by the mind boggling creatures of the sea.
Incidentally, it was a deliberate choice of the
architects to put nature's wonders front and center. The interior
walls have been painted in dark tones so that the predominant
source of light comes from the flickering reflections of the fish
tanks. As a result, your eyes will inevitably be glued to the glass
of the tanks, as if hypnotized by the magnificent seascapes.
Our idea was to try and tell the story of what is inside from the outside and to play with water in shaping the building. So the image of a whirlpool was about trying to suck people into the building. Down into the water. Down into the element of the fish./ Kim Herforth Nielsen, 3XN
More Than Meets the Eye
The Blue Planet is the largest aquarium in Northern Europe, with over 20,000 fish in tanks containing a staggering 7 million litres of water. Surprisingly, although this does not exactly ring out as a case-study for sustainability, the aquarium also promotes saving the environment.
Thanks to a sophisticated pump- and filtration system carefully concealed in the structure's basement, sea water can be drawn in directly from the Øresund strait. It is then filtered and recycled in a closed loop system, but some of it is also used to keep the entire facility cool.
besides what is its primary function, being a spectacular landmark,
the Blue Planet sets a fine example on how self-sufficiency and
sustainability can go hand-in-hand with spectacularly dynamic
Facts about The Blue Planet
The Blue Planet Building Foundation
Location: Kastrup, Denmark
Consulting Engineer: Moe
& Brødsgaard A/S
Kim Herforth Nielsen
Bo Boje Larsen
Stig Vesterager Gothelf,
Majbritt Lerche Madsen
Christina Melholdt Broegaard
Ida S. Greisen
Martin Rejnholt Frederiksen
Kasper Guldager Jørgensen
Jesper Thøger Christensen
Mogens Bruun Jepsen
Pernille Uglvig Jessen
Stine de Bang
Prizes: The prize 'In-Situ Prisen 2013' awarded by the Danish concrete association Dansk Beton.
a video about the project here.
Last updated: December 19, 2013
New York, NY, USA
Los Angeles, California, USA
Seattle, Washington, USA