Esbjerg’s new Maritime Center, dubbed “The Lantern”, is designed to put the community first. Developed by Snøhetta and WERK Arkitekter following a design competition in 2019, the center provides a social maritime hub and architectural landmark for the seaport town on the Danish west coast.
Housing multiple watersport clubs, boat storage, training facilities, a large workshop space and social functions, the center is a true hub for maritime activities. Its circular, open design invites visitors in from every angle, creating an accessible and inclusive building. The goal has been to create a unique destination that lights up the coast, so everyone can find their way to new communities at the sea.
Room for maritime activities and communities
The maritime center has room for everyone; from the experienced diver or professional kayaker to a crab-fishing school class or a random passer-by. The Maritime Center invites everyone to a peek inside the maritime life and outwards to the sea with its endless horizon.
The upper level of the building houses various clubs, including clubs for rowing, kayaking, sailing, diving and triathlon, as well as common areas, an educational center and training facilities. On the lower level, directly connected to the sea by a bridge, one can find the boat storage and workshop space.
Large windows throughout the building’s façade give plenty of daylight and visibility inwards, connecting the center to its surroundings. A warm glow shines through the windows at night, lighting the center like a lantern.
Inspired by wooden boat construction
The building design is inspired by the geometry and craftmanship of boats, paying homage to the maritime tradition and its significance in the port of Esbjerg.
Round-shaped holes between the terrace and the boat storage and preparation area bring daylight down to the ground floor's core and create a visual and social vertical link.
The façade has a rhythm and repetition inspired by wooden boat construction, both outside and inside. It also reflects the water's energy with the pace and horizontal rippling effect experienced when throwing a stone in the water. The changes in the angle of the panels give varying shadows, inspired by the shapes of kayaks. The wooden rhythm continues on the roof, where solar panels are integrated in a belt around the top edge.
Where the poetical and practical meet
With a vision to create a space that unites the poetical with the practical, Maritime Center aims to find a balance between the mesmerizing and never-ending movements of the sea and practical everyday chores. A symbiosis between the beautiful and the raw, the elegant and the robust.
The robustness of the center is evident not just in the buildings’ ability to facilitate activities, but also in how it creates shelter from strong winds. The building is planned for high water in case the water exceeds the new surrounding dam. Therefore, the structure up to the first floor is made of concrete, poured in one go. The wooden façade is designed to withstand harsh weather conditions, while the building is designed with areas where visitors can find shelter.
One such area, and the heart of the project, is a lifted, publicly accessible terrace, gathering all the different activities of the building. Connected to the first floor, the terrace is accessible from the two main stairs, creating an amphitheater. Along these two stairs, visitors can enjoy the view from the first floor on smaller terraces.