Tirpitz bunker museum by BIG

Tirpitz bunker museum by BIG

Kan også læses på: Dansk

Tirpitz bunker museum by BIG

Conveniently in time for my (brief) summer break out of Copenhagen, a new museum by BIG was recently opened. The Tirpitz Bunker Museum. So of course I went there to see the new member of the BIG family.

The Tirpitz bunker museum is a new addition next to a second world war German bunker that certainly provides character and context to the atmosphere of the place. The new building is ‘disguised’ as a neighboring sand dune but not exactly invisible.

Four narrow passages with glass on both sides cuts into a dune, meeting in a small, square open court. Here you’ll find the actual entrance door. Inside the entrance you meet ticket sale, a small shop and a small café on ground level, a twisted stairway leads to the entirely underground exhibitions.

The exhibition space is organised in four by the above landscape cuts from where daylight enter the spaces. One underground tunnel connects to the old bunker.

Nice, but…

The new museum does not quite live up to the high expectations I had from a familiar project from BIG: the Maritime Museum in Helsingør (Helsinore). It definitely has some good qualities, though. The cuts in the landscape and the open court room with its half-reflecting glass walls offer some visual complexity and a surprisingly pleasant outdoor space, not apparent from the outside.


I like the idea of hiding the museum in a sand dune allowing everyone to access the roof. Both for the simple pleasure of walking to the top and look down, and for the feeling of camouflage and secrecy. But it just is not as strong as I expected from the few pictures and description I’d seen beforehand.

The detailing of the edges, the railing and side and connection to the glass I feel is not supporting the idea. Rusty red Corten steel for railing and sides makes a good choice for a raw and industrial feeling. But in the end, it inevitably ‘sticks out’ physically from the dune and blows the camouflage. The concept remains too much of an appealing idea and less the actual experience on the place.

Inside, the concrete walls and sloping roof and ceilings enforce the underground feeling, materially and spatially referring to the bunker. The connecting hallways and central space has no daylight and only sparse lighting, and feels like a steel box – like underground tunnels connecting a system of bunkers.

Much ado

A great engineering effort is made to leave the sloping roofs with little structural support. And this kind of overhang is technically out of the ordinary, for sure. But – it has little or even no effect. Again I feel there is a lack of support or clarity in the detailing to really benefit architecturally from this technical achievement.

The exhibition design has one impressive feature. An exhibition about coastal history in one of the four rooms featured a visual show running now and then for some minutes with light effects and video making active use of exhibition objects in the room. A number of video projectors ‘broad casted’ a vivid impression of stormy waves on irregular shapes forming the exhibition.

Also for me as an architect the main attraction remains the original bunker itself. The only alterations are the convenience of an added wooden walkway, few security railings and small listening points. Crossing through the 3,5 m massive concrete walls into the alien spaces instantly bring the war much closer than any video or theatrical voicing from the exhibitions.


It crossed my mind when I was there, that the (nazi) swastika could have served as an inspiration for the overall layout of four arms. Using this symbol could be a very bold attempt to steal back a strong ancient iconography from the bad guys. Or it could be a coincidence and a blunder combined.

Back home I saw I was not the only one wondering:

Business as usual

After my enthusiastic celebration of BIGs Maritime Museum in Helsinore and other achievements, this project leaves me with an impression of a middle child that had less attention. It’s a nice idea turned into an alright project, and an ok overall experience.

I’m looking forward to meet the spoiled little sister…

It earns 4 squares from my side: □ □ □ □ □ □

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