Bjarke Ingels’ museum subverts dark history of a Nazi bunker

Blåvand, Denmark CNN  — 

Bjarke Ingels certainly has a way with words when it comes to describing his design for the newly opened Tirpitz Museum.

“It’s almost compared to when you have a hot potato,” he says. “When you make a cross and you squeeze, it opens up and reveals the softness inside. That’s pretty much what’s going on here, just with culture and nature.”

He’s alluding to the entrances to the new museum, open corridors carved into a large sand dune, which meet like a cross in an open courtyard. From there, glass windows allow visitors to peek into the vast underground galleries below.

Light-hearted comparisons aside, the museum builds upon a dark historical heritage. It was constructed as an extension to the Tirpitz bunker in Blåvand, Denmark, a former World War II fortress built by the Nazis in 1944, and abandoned, unfinished, in 1945.

Many crumbling bunkers still dot the coast of Denmark – a reminder of Hitler’s grand plans to build an impenetrable Atlantic Wall against his enemies, stretching from the Spanish border in France to the northern tip of Norway.

The new building is intended as a gentle counterbalance to the bunker’s grim heritage, and compliments the natural heritage of the dune landscape. The effect is a museum that “is almost the landscape itself” as Ingels describes it, partly invisible and sunken into the sand.

The museum is emblematic of Ingels’ design ethos and his ability to transform spaces and maximise their potential. Key designs by the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) include a luxury penthouse block above a multi-story car park, and a waste-to-energy plant that doubles as an urban ski slope in Copenhagen.

“I think good architecture should go beyond the questions that have already been asked,” Ingels says. “It should also ask, now that we are going to move some dirt around and stack some bricks, pour some concrete, what else can we do? And I think in that sense, this sort of harmony between the sand dunes and the open space is, I think, making this little corner of Denmark a little bit more exciting than it was when we found it.”