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The Blue Planet
3XN

June 10, 2013 /

Copenhagen, Denmark

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The Blue Planet. Exterior view. Photo by Adam Mørk

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 maelstrom.
     

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The Blue Planet. View of the entrance. Photo by Adam Mørk
    

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 spaces.
      

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.

So 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 form.
     

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The Blue Planet. Interior view of the fish tanks. Photo by Adam Mørk

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The Blue Planet. Glass-covered tunnel. Photo by Adam Mørk     

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The Blue Planet. Photo by Adam Mørk

Blue-planet-3XN-Adam-Mork-facade-2.jpgThe Blue Planet. Detail of the facade. Photo by Adam Mørk

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The Blue Planet. Detail of the facade. Photo by Adam Mørk

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The Blue Planet. Aerial view. Photo by Adam Mørk

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The Blue Planet. Aerial view. Photo by Adam Mørk

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The Blue Planet. Photo by CphCph

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The Blue Planet. Photo by CphCph

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The Blue Planet. Photo by CphCph

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The Blue Planet. Photo by CphCph

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The Blue Planet. Photo by CphCph

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The Blue Planet. Photo by CphCphblue-planet-3XN-concept.jpg
The Blue Planet. Concept diagram. Image courtesy of 3XN

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The Blue Planet. Model photo courtesy of 3XN
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The Blue Planet. Plan. Drawing courtesy of 3XN

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The Blue Planet. Roof plan. Drawing courtesy of 3XN
   
    

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The Blue Planet. Eastern facade. Drawing courtesy of 3XN
   
   

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The Blue Planet. Southern facade. Drawing courtesy of 3XN
   

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The Blue Planet. Section. Drawing courtesy of 3XN

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The Blue Planet. Section. Drawing courtesy of 3XN

Facts about The Blue Planet

Total area:

9,000 m2

Year: 

2013

Client: 

The Blue Planet Building Foundation

Architect:

3XN

Location: Kastrup, Denmark

Consulting Engineer: Moe & Brødsgaard A/S

Project Team:
Kim Herforth Nielsen
Jan Ammundsen
Bo Boje Larsen
Stig Vesterager Gothelf,
Eva Hviid-Nielsen,
Majbritt Lerche Madsen
Rasmus Hjortshøj
Peter Feltendal
Bodil Nordstrøm
Christina Melholdt Broegaard
Nis Timmer
Christian Bundegaard
Ida S. Greisen
Martin Rejnholt Frederiksen
Torsten Wang
Simon Hartmann-Petersen
Mans Nijkamp
Ulrich Pohl
Kasper Guldager Jørgensen
Martin Jonsbak
Lasse Lind
Jesper Thøger Christensen
Mogens Bruun Jepsen
Carsten Olsen
Pernille Uglvig Jessen
Stine de Bang

Prizes: The prize 'In-Situ Prisen 2013' awarded by the Danish concrete association Dansk Beton.

Watch a video about the project here.  

Last updated: December 19, 2013

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