185 miles north of the Arctic Circle, on the tip of the island Andøya, lies the quaint little town Andenes. Venture a little more, and you’ll find Bleiksdjupa, the deep-sea valley where migrating whales pass by, qualifying the area as one of the best locations in the world for catching a glimpse of the exquisite marine mammal. Whales are one of my favorite cetaceans; big, beautiful and always minding their own business. And to “create awareness and inspire learning and conservation of whales and their environment”, the Danish studio Dorte Mandrup will be building ‘The Whale’, a new visitor attraction in northern Norway. “Rising as a soft hill on the rocky shore– as if a giant had lifted a thin layer of the crust of the earth and created a cavity underneath”, The Whale is a perfect example of the seamless integration that can take place between architectural structures and their surrounding environment.
Designer: Dorte Mandrup
Recently The Whale AS held an international competition, wherein reputed architectural firms like BIG, Reiulf Ramstad and Snohetta took part. Beating 37 teams, and surpassing four pre-qualified ones, Dorte Mandrup was hailed as the winner. Borre Beglund, CEO of The Whale AS said, “The project from Dorte Mandrup is a clear winner and meets the competition criteria in the best way. It is poetic and low-key and at the same time a very exciting and unusual building.” Amongst the hills, mountain tops and curvaceous landscapes of Andøya, The Whale will be a perfect fit.
Resembling it’s namesake, the roof of The Whale curves like the backside of a whale hurtling through the ocean. The structure merges harmoniously with it’s surrounding rugged landscape, and emerges from it to provide breathtaking views of the ocean. The curved rooftop capped with stones rises majestically into the sky, a natural extension of the landscape, allowing visitors to walk on it with unparalleled views of passing whales, the ocean, the midnight sun, and even the iconic northern lights!
Three high points on the site characterize the roof, whereas the interiors will consist of offices, exhibition spaces, a store, and a café. Parabolic in nature, the space will be completely column-free, creating an expansive and self-supporting structure. With 50,000 visitors coming to Andenes almost every year, The Whale will only attract more tourists who want to indulge in some whale watching.
“Located this far North, Andøya is a unique place and The Whale an extraordinary project. Not only will we be creating architecture in yet another remarkable landscape, but we will also take part in increasing the understanding of whales and the preservation of marine life. Right here on the edge of the ocean, we will be making a mark in a magnificent and ancient landscape. This opportunity comes with a great responsibility, which is extremely motivating and inspiring.” says Dorte Mandrup. Tasked with the responsibility of creating an organic contemporary wonder, the firm is also excited to be doing their bit for the conservation of such a magnificent marine creature. The building might be low-key and subtle, with simplicity interwoven in it’s every brick, but only such a piece could truly commemorate the graceful whale. Opening to the public in 2022, The Whale is the result of the efforts of Dorte Mandrup in collaboration with Marianne Levinsen Landscape and consultants JAC Studio, Thornton Tomasetti, Niels Øien and Anders Kold.