With a small budget, you may not be able to transform everything at once, but by making a few well-informed changes, you can set the direction for the future. Fanø Bad has a glamorous past of coastal tourism by the sublime Wadden Sea on the Danish West Coast. However, the unique feel had faded – the town appeared worn down and the connection to the beautiful surrounding landscape was weak. We set out to rediscover the town’s visual and tangible history. We found reminiscences of an old brick promenade and used it as a bridge between the historic and the current town, which lead to a long-term strategy on how to revitalize the town.
The first bathing resort in Denmark was opened at Fanø in the 1890s and it became a destination for the higher society of Denmark, Germany, and Austria. The main attraction was not the broad beaches, the unique light or the fresh air, but to see others and to be seen promenading through town. When we first arrived at Fanø, the town was declining with local businesses fighting to survive. Our development strategy addresses the problems we experienced at Fanø Bad – cars and car parking seemed more important than people, a broad road allowed for the cars to drive too fast and the few businesses had turned inwards, hiding behind fences to avoid the cars in the street. It was a shame in a town whose main attraction is the experience of walking from the town into the landscape. The new project consists of only a few elements inspired by history and local traditions: a new town ‘floor’ to change the hierarchy between people and cars, oak seating and lighting to establish a smaller scale and a sheltered gathering place together with new vegetation to bring nature and the town closer together.
The town was divided into two main areas to establish a stronger sense of urbanity, one part was to be densified with a clear town center were as the other part should be integrated into the surrounding landscape. The traffic speed is reduced and Strandvejen is transformed into an interesting urban promenade, which connects to the many paths that tie Fanø Bad and the surrounding landscape together. The local businesses and town façades are open towards the street, creating an exchange of activities and urban life and making the promenade an interesting place to visit by foot. A large chandelier forms a new landmark and focal point in the town center and marks the square as a destination. While the furniture creates room for stay and play, as well as a niche to find shelter from the harsh western wind after a walk to the beach.
With a limited budget, the focus was to establish a structure that could grow over time. We interviewed already-existing important and enthusiastic cultural and commercial stakeholders, as we were looking for potential in their businesses and everyday lives that could be included in the public realm around them. The limited resources were put into developing a main urban space that would create ripples in the development around it – and that is exactly what happened. The structural spine of the project is growing and we consider it a successful approach. The surrounding businesses opened their façades towards the square and the change has brought a new atmosphere of hope and inspiration to the town. Locals now improve their façades, continuing the promenade in similar pavement and taking new initiatives to heighten the quality of the urban space and filling it was activities.
Brick pavement, oak furniture, and ceramic lighting are durable materials that reflect and compliment the nature of Fanø. The brick paving is a natural fit in this site as the color scheme sprang from the surroundings. The coal-burnt bricks simulate the light on the beach when the tide is low and the light yellow and grey bricks resemble the sand and seashells. The materials will age beautifully and withstand the sand and rough wind on the west coast. The woodwork was designed by Everyday Studio and created in collaboration with locals to promote local ownership of the site and make local knowledge and tradition visible. The lighting elements are a reinterpretation of historic seamarks. Along with the new furniture in high-quality materials, this has set a new standard for the town center.
Landscape Architecture: MASU Planning
Type: Invited competition 2015, 1st prize
Team: Everyday Studio
Location: Fanø bad, Denmark
GPS: 55.434252, 8.365856
Design year: 2016
Year of construction: 2017
Area: 25.000 m2 (planning area), 5100 m2 (project area)
Budget: 4,000,000 DKR / 535.828 euro
Client: Fanø Municipality and Realdania
Image credits: Kirstine Autzen, summer 2018