A natural extension of medieval history
Hammershus Visitor Centre
Hammershus, a 13th century Medieval castle, is located on the windy cliffs of northwest Bornholm. The fortification receives over 500,000 visitors annually and has witnessed some of Denmark’s most memorable historical events. With popularity increasing, the Danish Nature Agency held a design competition for a new visitors centre.
Buro Happold, in collaboration with Arkitema and Christoffer Harlang, was chosen from over 53 other design entries to deliver the project. Our team developed new facilities that would successfully renovate the iconic castle and provide an effective learning environment for visitors, these included: a café, toilets, kiosk, exhibition room and classrooms. We were also enlisted to help deliver the visitor centre which would provide an opportunity for the public to view the historical ruin from the natural surroundings.
It was important that the new attraction does not draw attention away from the ancient ruin, and still emphasises the natural environment. We strategically designed a structure that allows the visitors centre to be discreetly integrated into the surrounding landscape.
The centre is arranged across an expansive plane, which is located within a ravine. The structure features extensive, uninterrupted windows, offering stunning views of Hammershus. It is constructed on terrain tires with supporting walls carved into the landscape, using narrow steel pillars to support a wooden roof. Accessible as an extension of the area’s public footpaths, the roof is incorporated into the terrain to form a new public space. This scenic platform is an important element of the design, offering panoramic views of Hammershus and the surrounding landscape.
Our team also designed a bridge to traverse the ravine, affording access to the castle ruins. This addition runs from the terrace in front of the centre and follows the same design theme, with steel columns that carry a wooden structure and corresponding tires. Our intelligent and sympathetic bridge design ensures this structure is a seamless extension of the visitor building.
In addition to this, all mechanical and electrical installations are easy to optimise helping to reduce costs and maintenance needs for the client. Natural ventilation and lighting is used extensively, helping to reduce energy consumption. During the summer months ventilation provides extra capacity, and in the winter underfloor heating ensures visitor comfort.
The visitor centre has been constructed using high quality materials, including locally sourced oak and rock granulate dug out from the cliff, that reference the surrounding environment.
With its careful placement in the existing surroundings and sensitive use of materials, the visitor centre forms an integrated part of the natural environment, respecting the castle as the dominating centre in the area. This valuable addition to the Hammershus visitor experience opened to the public in March 2018, marking the beginning of a new and exciting chapter in the incredible history of Hammershus Castle.