M/S Maritime Museum of Denmark

M/S Museum for Søfart_CopenhagenArchitecture_

Kan også læses på: Dansk

With M/S BIG has realised the best project I’ve seen from their creation, and that’s something!

By inhabiting the biggest dry dock of a former shipyard the undeniable starchitect has conceived and realised a super attractive place.

Ramps and glazed bridges connects across the empty dock og short cut a circuit of surrounding spaces, carved out on the outside of the underground outside.
The team of Bjarke Ingels has in this project managed to come up with an alternative solution on a difficult and uninspired competition commission. Their different take have resultet in a stimulating array of spaces, that also is excellently utilized , so there is no border or conflict between form and content, between building and exhibition.

The highly varied succession of spaces – and exhibitions with it – changes effortlessly from intimate to grand to claustrophobic to industrial.
The Dutch exhibition architects Kossmann.dejong certainly deserves a mention, in that there’s no obvious line between architecture and exhibition.

The ramps between the longer sides of the dock interrupts these underground exhibions with a generous daylight and exposes the rough concrete walls of the dock. The visitor never looses the feeling of the industrial character and background.

Even though the dock is far from a historically sensitive place, this project shows respect to the decayed concrete shell, yet physically direct and unsentimental.

Drawing from the past is also in this case an important element of character and identity, as a concrete, historic anchoring.
The dock give the new museum a degree of texture and material diversity that in other BIG projects is given less care.
Still the main architectural features are visual as in other BIG projects.

Views along and across multiple layers of glass, mirroring the sky, sometimes dissolves the space in abstract fata morganas and halfway optical illusions.

Knowing about the Harbour Bath and the Maritime Youth Club from the early years of BIG – in the name Plot – I see a familiarity with the maritime theme.

The gangway as a direct maritime motif is unforced, as is the shift in scale and contrasts between refinement in detail and industrial concrete.

BIG (and Plot) has long gone infused a new energetic vigor to Danish (and World) architecture.
The ‘Trilogy’ in Ørestad (VM Houses, the Mountain and the 8House) are earlier examples on surprising and original architectonic concepts, and not even the most reactionary and unwilling 1970s-architect can very well deny some original qualities.

In M/S the cocky new kids on the block tamed their playful audacity to a fully matured architectural expression. In line with a peculiar fashion the bathrooms is an experience on their own. In a tungue-in-cheak manner, the ladies room to the left is held in port side fluorescent red color, mens room in starboard green, and the sink has found another unique variation in form.

Charming ‘wims’ that, combined with a spatial-geometrical show piece in a big stairs, are used but not overused in benefit of the experience and insignificantly on the expense of functionality.

BIG won the competition with a proposal that obviously violated the given conditions, that the project had to stay within the borders of the old dock.

Rightfully it could be claimed that BIG had cheated for an advantage against the competitors.

But in spite of the element of competition, architecture is not an olympic discipline, and even though the visionary and surprising solution, that breaks the rules does not deserve the gold medal, it deserves to be realized. Which was the fortunate outcome.

M/S is an overall very successful building. It is not worth mentioning insignificant exceptions such as the spectacular double-curved staircase is an uncomfortable climb, it’s concrete surface has small cracks, probably due to insufficient reinforcement, and the strangely clunky granite bollards that prevents cars from dropping through the glass fence and into the dock, that doubles as benches and in a rather speculative manner spells the name of the museum in morse code.

My primary objection towards the project is that the impressive and dynamic concept slightly overwhelms it’s host, the dock.

The old dock and the industrial romantics is still strong in the many views, but the original simple internal space of the dock is almost lost.
The crossing bridges is bigger and less transparent than they appear in BIGs typically ethereal visualizations of the project presentations.

My next objection is the way the visitor enevitably stumbles into the the obtrusive museum shop immediately after entering the entrance doors, and as the last thing before leaving.

I can only see that as a necessary evil and a futile attempt to save a budget that is unfortunately typical these days for the cultural institutions and their new building.

Finally on my own account, I must say, the exhibitions is captivating and well organized, that it took forever to go through it all and take the pictures for this review.

The M/S deserves all of six squares from this visitor.

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