A project that brings together watersport clubs, boat storage, training facilities, and workshops
WERK Arkitekter and Snøhetta designed the city of Esbjerg’s new maritime center – dubbed The Lantern for the way it shines at night – to be a building for a whole community, a “lantern” by the sea for immersing yourself in the marine ecosystem, a training and sports hub inspired by the design of wooden boats, and a tribute to the traditions of Danish fishermen.
Thomas Kock, creative director of WERK Arkitekter, explains that, from the outset, the goal of the project was to create a hub for this community on the west coast of Denmark that could bring together watersport clubs, a tourist and visitor center, boat storage, workshops, and more in the one place.
“The marine center has a place for everyone,” says Frank D. Foray, senior architect and project manager at Snøhetta, “from the devoted diver or skilled kayaker to a crab-fishing school class or a casual passer-by.”
This idea of connecting with nature was incorporated into the architectural decisions made by the two studios when designing The Lantern, a building that stands out for its soft, curving lines, and large windows that dissolve the barrier between inside and out, and allow light to shine into, and out of, the building. Natural light floods the interior during the day, while at night, artificial lighting transforms the structure into a beacon in the dark.
WERK Arkitekter and Snøhetta made the port city of Esbjerg’s craft tradition and mastery of building wooden boats important parts of the building’s design. The project is therefore a homage to these traditions, which can be seen in a design inspired by the geometry and materials of boats. A prime example is the design of the façades, which have shifting shapes reminiscent of a kayak. Both inside and out, wood panels at different angles play a leading role, creating a continuous interplay of light and shade that’s further accentuated by the rounded lines and circular openings on the roof and terrace.
As you approach and enter the building, its design reflects the endless hypnotic motion of the shifting sea. Its warm, welcoming interiors convey the idea of being onboard a ship and in contact with the sea and its various forms of life. To achieve these poetic effects, however, no compromises were made in terms of functionality.
The symbiosis between aesthetics and functionality includes a fusion of beauty and strength, elegance and durability. Besides being a hub for the local community and beyond, it’s also a place for just relaxing. Its forms serve as protection against the wind, while its structure, concrete at ground level, is specifically designed to withstand high tides.
The fulcrum of Esbjerg’s maritime center is its raised terrace, accessible via two staircases and open to the public. The curving roof, also wood, hides solar panels installed in a belt around its top edge.
This is a project that combines poetics and aesthetics with practicality and functionality. And it’s open to everyone who loves the sea.
Location: Esbjerg, Denmark
Architects: WERK Arkitekter and Snøhetta
Client: Esbjerg Municipality
Area: 2,800 m2
Photography by wichmann+bendtsen photography, courtesy of Snøhetta