The merits of international architectural competitions are evident, with many visionary and iconic structures the result of competition-based tendering processes.
The competition to design Denmark’s Natural History Museum provides a strong example, bringing forth a plethora of incredible designs, controversy over differing visions, and one critically acclaimed winner.
Of the 40 shortlisted entrants, six were selected as finalists, including proposals from internationally acclaimed architectural firms such as BIG architects, Lundgaard & Tranberg Architects, Snøhetta and David Chipperfield Architects. The design brief outlines the development of a new natural history museum that the University of Copenhagen points out ‘will hold one of the 10 largest natural history collections in the world.’
Set to be located in the heart of the Botanical Garden in the country’s capital, ‘the new museum will replace the old museums, the Zoological Museum, the Geological Museum and the Botanical Museum physically and when it comes to presentation of knowledge’ the university explains.
The top six tenders were awarded DKK 500,000 in order to fulfill this goal, with the winning team given a further DKK 500,000 as prize money.
Industry favourites BIG architects and Lundgaard & Tranberg Architects, in association with architect Claus H. Pryds, exemplify the way approaches to shortlisted designs can differ even as objectives overlap.
The latter entry set out a simplistic objective in wanting to “to give Copenhagen and Denmark a beautiful museum, where the garden and its history still plays the lead role” according to Lene Tranberg of Lundgaard & Tranberg Architects, while BIG Architects used a more complex design ideology.
“The future natural history museum should not only gather the Zoological, Geological and Botanical Museums in a new integrated institution, but it should also be fitted in as a natural part of the Botanical Garden as a new and different hybrid between building and landscape with exhibitions both inside and outside,” reads an extract of Bjarke Ingels’ design explanation. “We are really excited to be able to give our version of the natural history museum of the future – a challenge of great complexity as to contents, exhibitions, city and landscape, and with a huge potential.”
While these two objectives are similar, the jury members decided simplicity was the best way to deliver the Museum, with Lundgaard & Tranberg Architects and Claus H. Pryds winning the lucrative tender.
Optimising both ground-level and underground spaces, the design concept for the space is as much about its interiors – if not more so – as it is about the exterior space. While the surrounding heritage buildings will be maintained, the new building has been designed in order to interweave with these elements and with its natural surroundings.
In a unique move by the designers, interior elements will make as much impact on the exteriors as they will on the inside spaces, with the most notable addition that of a giant whale skeleton lit from the inside of the new and semi-transparent addition to make it appear as a façade feature.
To limit the impact on the environmental surroundings, the designers have chosen to go underground with their design, with exhibitions about outer space, the gateway to the Arctic and evolution located below ground.
Both industry critics and the Danish public have been effusive in their praise for the development, construction on which is set to begin next year with an expected 2016/2017 completion date.