Development of Dorte Mandrup’s The Whale is back on track following a historic discovery that left the future of the building’s site undecided. The Danish architecture firm first won the design competition for a whale observation attraction in the Arctic Circle in late 2019—besting entries from other impressive firms such as BIG and Snøhetta.
As explained following the last year’s announcement, Dorte Mandrup’s proposal was selected for its minimally invasive design and gently contoured form defined by the surrounding landscape. Though the design aesthetics are focused on optimal views and experience, the building’s organization allows for offices, a public café, a gift store, and exhibition spaces that support marine-based experiences. Most importantly, the minimal striation of the façade preserves a visual connection to the outside landscape, creating an almost floating sensation for the curved roof system.
The new images produced by Mir include mainly interior views of potential exhibition areas. Dramatic and minimal shots feature minimally decorated exhibits that do not distract from the grand gestures inherently present in the architecture—similar to the project’s overall mission to blend in seamlessly to the environment.
The project site, which is located on the Norwegian Island of Andøya, is known for its incredible views of the seaside and proximity to common paths of migrating whales. It was decided that Andenes (the northernmost settlement of Andøya) would be the perfect spot for The Whale, so that visitors could view the giant marine mammals. However, an issue arose. A settlement mound dating back to Viking times was well known in Andenes, but further development of the building site revealed the mound to be much larger than anticipated. The area became protected under the Cultural Heritage Act as the expanded territory marked it the largest settlement mound of this type in Norway.
On October 15, 2020, the decision was overturned with the understanding that The Whale would act as a living piece of history and play an important role in the culture and tourism for the island. Coming to this ultimate decision has delayed the project, though. With a new opening date scheduled for June of 2023, The Whale is sure to introduce visitors to a unique Arctic experience while respecting the historic site.