On the rugged northwest coast of Denmark’s Jutland peninsula, fields of dunes stretch out across a windswept landscape of sand, heaths and meadows. Facing the North Sea, the Thy National Park is devoted to the preservation of this distinct ecology. But the scenic expanse is also a burgeoning destination, with the growing volume of tourists necessitating the construction of a new visitor centre — and complicating the park’s environmental mandate. Could the two priorities be successfully reconciled?
That question was at the heart of LOOP Architects‘ design for a 700-square-metre facility that invites the public into the landscape. Situated in a small coastal village, the new Thy National Park Visitor’s Centre almost becomes one with the coastal dunes. Wedged into the rolling sandy expanse and topped by a living roof, the concrete structure recreates the surrounding topography while creating a dynamic new entry point — and an education hub — for the park.
The Aarhus-based firm’s project was initiated by a design competition that called for a visitor facility integrated with the landscape. “We won the architectural competition in 2019 with a building that met the client’s ambition for a visitor centre whose architecture gently nudges its visitors to enter and explore the park,” says LOOP Architects partner and lead project architect Morten Nymann.
Mediating a space between the village and the coast, the designers opted to make entrance and egress an essential part of the experience. From three sides of the building, visitors are conveyed in and out via sloping concrete walls that stretch outward from the doors. Gesturing out to their surroundings while simultaneously drawing visitors inside, the walls offer shelter from the wind — and a buffer for the quiet village — descending to the ground to meet the natural landscape.
While the building’s sloped form evokes the surrounding dunes, the massing also makes the whole of the roof accessible to pedestrians. Designed by Danish landscape architects SLA, the roofscape presents panoramas of both the village and the sea, as well as the rich Jutland topography of the 244-square-kilometre nature preserve.
Inside, a majestic view of the North Sea is framed by a generous central window, with a skylight bringing further natural light into the central room. Combining raw concrete walls with warm wooden surfaces that accent the doors and window frames, the elegantly pared down space features educational exhibits on local flora, fauna, geography and culture, as well as restrooms and informal group gathering spaces. But it’s the window and skylight that define the room, reminding us that the real draw remains outside — and above.
LOOP Architects design an almost incognito tourist hub that celebrates the Jutland landscape.