Icefjord Centre, Ilusulissat, Greenland to be completed in 2021
model of Vadehavscentret / The Wadden Sea Center in Vester Vedsted completed in 2017
With the title Irreplaceable Landscapes, this major exhibition at the Danish Architecture Centre starts with the new Icefjord visitor centre and research centre that overlooks the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier in Ilusulissat on the west coast of Greenland.
Then, in the main exhibition space at BLOX, are models and information panels for an astounding trilogy of buildings - the three new visitor centres designed by Dorte Mandrup in three different countries that overlook three of the distinct seascapes of Vadehavet / The Wadden Sea.
Vadehavscentret - The Wadden Sea Center - completed in 2017 - overlooks the marshland of Vester Vedsted in Denmark; the Vadehavscenter - Wadden Sea World Heritage Center - in Wilhelmshaven in Germany will incorporate the remains of a war-time bunker and Vadehavscenter - The Wadden Sea Center - is on the tidal waters of Lauwersoog in the Netherlands.
Dramatically, the floor of the exhibition space has been kept open but has been overlaid with thatch - the material used for both the roof and the walls for the Danish buildings - and around the walls are projected images of the sea and sky and foreshore of the natural setting of these buildings.
So, this is an exhibition about our relationship with the natural landscape - wild and powerful, but threatened landscapes - and about striking modern buildings and their place in those landscapes.
On one information panels, there is an important quotation where Dorte Mandrup explains her belief:
“that a building can enhance a landscape - increase the drama or underpin its beauty when placed correctly and when shaped aptly.”
Vadehavscentret / The Wadden Sea Center in Vester Vedsted completed in 2017
Vadehavscenter / Wadden Sea World Heritage Center, Wilhelmshaven in Germany with completion planned for 2020
Vadehavscenter / The Wadden Sea Center, Lauwersoog in the Netherlands with completion planned for 2021
The exhibition includes models and photographs and drawings from more than twenty building projects by the architect, completed over a period of twenty years, and including many distinct and well-known buildings in Copenhagen. Shape and form and the volume of a space are the starting point but, in a very Danish way, details matter.
What you see in all of these buildings is a strong awareness of place and context - a sensitivity to location - but with the confidence to use new materials or materials in an unconventional way and, although the buildings have to be practical and functional - most are schools or libraries or community centres - there is always a strong sense of human scale, but also a sense of architecture used to challenge people through an adventurous use of unconventional shapes or volumes inside or through the use of unconventional shapes or roof lines outside.
But this is definitely not architecture used to impose an ego … these are not bombastic buildings from a starchitect - even the word is awful - but buildings that do push boundaries to challenge the preconceptions of the viewer and the user.
Another quotation from Dorte Mandrup helps to explain this approach because the studio:
“insist on clients that share our ambition and courage -
in the end, the extraordinary requires nerve.”
On the architect's internet site, there is a video about the Icefjord Centre - that describes how the building was conceived and how it will function. It is an object-lesson in how to talk about modern buildings and about architectural spaces - buildings that appear to be simple but are realised through an incredibly sophisticated construction; have a complex set of functions and - particularly with the Icefjord Centre -buildings where, ultimately, the landscape rather than the building has to have precedence but where that building is a crucial vehicle through which the visitor is helped to access and understand and appreciate that landscape.