Part museum, part nature reserve and part visitor centre, The Whale emerges elegantly from the rugged Norwegian coastline. Copenhagen firm Dorte Mandrup’s competition-winning proposal may at first seem a little on the nose, but it is inspired as much by the sea mammal’s appearance as it is by its adaptive behaviours. Located on the tip of Andøya, an island about 300 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, the site’s dramatic underwater landscape and unique microclimate make it an ideal feeding ground for migrating whales — and consequently, a prime location to view the creatures up close and personal.
Dorte Mandrup’s design embraces an element of fantasy: To the architects, the building appears “as if a giant has made an incision into the crust of the earth and lifted a thin layer up to form a new topography.” Indeed, the structure is an abstraction of the landscape, enveloping nearly the whole peninsula. Covered with natural, locally sourced stones, the roofscape will become a walkable public space where visitors can take in the spectacular views. Due to the salty and humid coastal climate, natural materials have been chosen for the beautiful patina they will develop over time.
Most impressively, the roof’s parabolic concrete shell will support its entire span, allowing for a column-free interior that minimizes material use. Its aerodynamic design also mitigates wind turbulence and snow buildup so the roof can be utilized year-round. Composed of both curved and flat glazing, the façade poetically recalls the rippling of water, distorting the view to exaggerate the closeness of the sea and connect the interior with the terrain. The open-plan exhibition space is conceived as an extension of both the architecture and its context, where carefully curated views and acoustics amplify the sensory experience.
While construction of The Whale is, regrettably, on hold — delayed first due to archeological discoveries on site, then by funding issues related to the Ukraine war — its awe-inspiring design has us excitedly anticipating its arrival.
Team: Dorte Mandrup with Marianne Levinsen Landskab; Thornton Tomasetti; AT Plan & Arkitektur; JAC Studios; Anders Kold and Nils Øien
Copenhagen firm Dorte Mandrup’s competition-winning proposal is inspired as much by the sea mammal’s appearance as it is by its adaptive behaviours.