In the search for alternative ways to build the city, I am exploring the area of Refshaleøen in Copenhagen. The island is artificially made and has for many decades housed one of the city’s largest workplaces namely the Burmeister & Wain shipyard. Perhaps there is a way to develop the current reality into the future conditions that lie ahead of us? A way of creating the identity of the future area based on historical memories. The large halls of the island are currently used as art galleries, climbing halls and for other activities that require a large space. The project aims to have an alternative approach to the urban development strategy for the area.

However, the intention is not to generate a masterplan, but rather to investigate how architecture as a cornerstone can point urban development into a different
direction. The ambition is to continue the island’s atmosphere, architectural conditions and spatial qualities as the design marker for both temporary and long-term urban development. As a unified narrative, the intention is to safeguard the area’s existence, relay the present identity of the place and bring it into the future development.

The project revolves around finding a solution to preserve a piece of national cultural heritage while on the other hand seeking to find a future structure that resonates within a rapid-chancing globalized world. Consequently, the project works at several temporalities at the same time:

I. Iteration of an existing building as a way of preservation into the future.
II. Inner temporary structure suited for the current need of the new building.
III. Long-term structure capable of adapting to future needs.

Preserving industrial heritage

“Industrial heritage consists of the remains of industrial culture which are of historical, technological, social, architectural or scientific value”- TICCIH

Industrial preservation is more than the celebration of the past, it becomes part of designing the future. Therefore, industrial preservation which is able to connect people, place, and history encourages a sense of place and the will for community renewal. The notion behind the need to protect industrial heritage is that those landmarks are not only connected to history, they are probably also connected to memory. Hence, in order to maintain the uniqueness of a place, its memory must be protected, maintaining the characteristics that bring the past into the future. The closure of the Burmeister and Wain shipyard in 1996 marked the end of an era in Danish industrial history. The yard on the Refshale Island in Copenhagen was known as a leading company in Denmark for a period of almost 150 years.

Both in terms of size, technical innovation and trade union work. The yard and its buildings tell the story of how Danish society has evolved over time. From relatively late industrialisation to de-industrialisation nearly 150 years later. The shipyard had its beginnings in nearby Christianshavn district.

As the factory grew, the site became too small and Refshaleøen was created to accommodate the larger facilities. The former factory and its memory are now gone and replaced by housing. During the 1990s, the city rapidly transformed into a knowledge society. The island and its building stock preserve the memory of how society existed just a few decades back. It tells the story of technological invention and the birth of the Danish welfare state which I think is the reason why keeping traces of industrial history is important.

The proposal will contain five Viking ships from a current museum, which will be demolished next year. The ships are owned by the National Museum, however, because of spatial limitations they are not currently located there. I am proposing to relocate the ships from the town of excavation Roskilde to Copenhagen as a way of linking ancient and recent maritime history. In order to create a balance between various national time fragments I am sourcing traits from the Viking period as well in my pursuit of a new contemporary iteration.

How can the industrial identity of the past be reconciled with today’s knowledge society?

My intention is to maintain the material and above all intangible face of the industrial past by creating an iteration of one of the existing buildings of the site. A way of creating the soul of the future based on memories of the past. The architecture of the proposed museum tries to be culturally resilient. In order to do so I am identifying significant traits of traditional Danish architecture as a way of translating into a contemporary iteration. Danish architecture is characterised by a simplicity and clarity that manifests itself in the simple village churches with laundered brick walls and red roof tiles that can be seen everywhere in the Danish landscape. There is a connection in Danish architecture that spans a long period, which manifests itself in the fact that the Danish farm and the way in which it is built – both in
terms of form and technique is to be traced into modern architecture. The reason why Danish architecture appears as it does is partly to be found in the Danish landscape and the natural material deposits in Denmark.

Impermanence vs. longevity

I am interested in maintaining the spirit of the site into the future. The site is privately owned which means that vast plots of land will most likely be sold to large pension funds or foreign developers when the time for development has appeared. The industrial traces are likely to be little, therefore the aim is to “prolong” the longevity of the industrial heritage by making an iteration of an existing building. A sort of a regeneration. Not a copy, but a new iteration that both points back to previous time and speaks about various ways of occupying the future. Different parts of the building will be designed and trying to accommodate for different life-spans according to their purpose.

The museum is suited for having a temporal life-span since the ships are likely to be moved to the National Museum at some point in the future. All parts of the museum are therefore to be removed at some points leaving the building for another purpose. Administration, shop and café are suspended from the main structure. The exhibition tents are located in the void of the trusses and serve as spaces for artefacts, film and lecture spaces. The five ships are to be suspended from the ceiling. A ramp will act as the guide of the museum taking the visitor through the history. After each ship the ramp will lead the visitor outside to be reconnected with the water before encountering the next experience.

credits

architect: Peter Fyllgraf  |  client: Royal College of Art  |  status: Academic Project (2020)  |  location: Copenhagen, Denmark (55.6928333,12.613972222)  |  climate: Temperate, Oceanic / maritime  |  materials: brick, concrete, metal  |  environments: Industrial, Seaside  |  visualizer: Studio  |  scale: 7.700 m2 medium  |  types: cultural, museum, refurbishment  |  views: 333