Esbjerg’s New Maritime Center Opens to the Public: A New Landmark Lighting up the Danish West Coast

In the seaport town Esbjerg on the Danish west coast, a new maritime centre has opened to the public. Developed by WERK Arkitekter and Snøhetta, following a design competition in 2019, the centre is created as a shared space for watersport clubs and visitors along the port, providing the town with a maritime social hub and architectural landmark.

Room for maritime activities and communities

Frank D. Foray, senior architect and project manager at Snøhetta, points out that the new centre will invite to activity, engagement and learning for the visitors:

“The maritime center has room for everyone; from the experienced diver or professional kayaker to a crab-fishing school class or a random passer-by. The Lantern invites everyone to a peek inside the maritime life and outwards to the sea with its endless horizon,”

says Foray.

The upper level of the building houses various clubs, including clubs for rowing, kayaking, sailing, diving and triathlon, as well as common areas, an educational centre and training facilities. On the lower level, directly connected to the sea by a bridge, one can find boat storage and workshop space. Large windows throughout the building’s façade give plenty of daylight and visibility inwards, while also connecting the centre to its surroundings. At night, a warm glow shines through the windows, lighting the centre up like a lantern.

Inspired by wooden boat construction

The building design is inspired by the geometry and craftmanship of boats, paying homage to the maritime tradition and its significance in the port of Esbjerg.

Round-shaped holes between the terrace and the boat storage and preparation area bring daylight down to the ground floor’s core and create a visual and social vertical link.

The façade has a rhythm and repetition inspired by wooden boat construction, both outside and inside. It also reflects the water’s energy with the pace and horizontal rippling effect experienced when throwing a stone in the water. The changes in the angle of the panels give varying shadows, inspired by the shapes of kayaks. The wooden rhythm continues on the roof, where solar panels are integrated in a belt around the top edge.

Where the poetical and practical meet

With a vision to create a space that unites the poetical with the practical, the Maritime Center aims to find a balance between the mesmerizing and never-ending movements of the sea and practical everyday chores. A symbiosis between the beautiful and the raw, the elegant and the robust.

The robustness of the centre is evident not just in the buildings’ ability to facilitate activities, but also in how it creates shelter from strong winds. The building is planned for high water in case the water exceeds the new surrounding dam. Therefore, the structure up to the first floor is made of concrete, poured in one go. The wooden façade is designed to withstand harsh weather conditions, while the building is designed with areas where visitors can find shelter.

One such area, and the heart of the project, is a lifted, publicly accessible terrace, gathering all the different activities of the building. Connected to the first floor, the terrace is accessible from the two main stairs, creating an amphitheatre. Along these two​ amphi stairs, visitors can enjoy the view and the maritime activities on smaller wind-protected terraces on the first floor.

Project size: Approx. 2800 m2 (approx. 3800m2 incl. terrace and boat storage)
​Client: Esbjerg Municipality ​
​Materials: Approximately 65 kilometers of European, Thermo-treated pine tree is used for the building’s facade and roof construction

Architecture: Snøhetta WERK

Photography: wichmann+bendtsen photography

Published on January 16, 2023

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