At a time when many new museums opt for flashy architecture, a new history museum in the westernmost part of Denmark is notable for a different reason: It is almost entirely invisible to the naked eye.
Believe it or not, this approach is by design. The museum sits in a bunker located near the headland of Blavand that was built as part of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall defense during World War II. That bunker, called the Tirpitz, was slated to support one of the largest gun installations on the European front but was never actually completed—in the military sense, at least.
The new getup, adapted and expanded by designer Bjarke Ingals, opened earlier this month and is expected to bring in about 100,000 visitors annually. It is a six-hour train ride from Copenhagen.
The museum is a cluster of buildings that extend outward from the surface, their corners piercing the surface like cracks in a crust of bread. Pathways between structures burrow into the land. A new courtyard, made from stone, grants access to four completely new (and subterranean) galleries. The structures have grass roofs to blend into the hillsides. Despite this approach, the inclusion of glass walls above ground guarantees that galleries get lots of natural light.
In a recent article in The Space, an architecture zine, museum director Claus Kjeld Jensen explains that exhibits tell the story of the bunker’s past and of the bunker in the context of Danish history through time.
The permanent exhibits were designed by Dutch agency Tinker Imagineers. One, titled “West Coast Stories,” explores 20,000 years of history in the region; another, titled “Army of Concrete,” provides information and anecdotes about what was life was like when Nazis occupied the area. A third gallery, named “Sea Gold,” shows off Denmark’s largest collection of amber and replicas of trees 40 million years old.
The special exhibit gallery opened with an installation that focuses on the process of removing old land mines and spotlights the 2015 movie Land of Mine. (The movie was shot in the area around Blavand.)
It’s worth noting that the Tirpitz bunker museum isn’t the first museum to sit at this site; another, more limited facility was here for about 25 years before closing earlier this year. The new facility is part of the Varde Museum, a larger museum to the east that celebrates the art and cultural heritage of the region.