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Resumé af Kristina Nørgaards speciale

Specialetitel: THE OCEAN AND THE ISLANDS - A new proposal for the Faroese national aquarium | Arkitektskolen Aarhus

Visualization of the new maritime center
Visualization of the new maritime center

The great ocean that surrounds the Faroe Islands has been the islands’ most important resource  forcenturies. It may therefore seem strange that a more modern maritime research and information center does not already exist, taking into account that the Faroe Islands is a society with great dependence on a well-functioning marine environment. Based on the current national aquarium on the Faroe Islands: Føroya Sjósavn, and the surrounding landscape, this project will end up as a proposal for a new maritime research and information center. The goal of the project is to research how architecture can provide a multifunctional building anchored at a specific site. The vision for the new maritime center is to facilitate better options within research and at the same time increase curiosity and knowledge for the local population as well as foreign visitors.

The Faroe Island - a Large Ocean Nation

In spite of being a small country with a population of only 52.000 people, the Faroe Islands controls a big area of sea waters. This is an area of 247.000 km2, which in comparison, is around 5 times the size of Denmark. The Faroe Islands is a nation where work related to fishery historically has been the main occupation. Through several centuries the Faroese people have lived with and by the sea and survived on the food it provided. Today the Faroe Island is part of the group Large Ocean Nations. The term appeals to the strengths and opportunities of small island nations, highlighting the size and potential of the marine jurisdictions, rather than focusing on the limits of the land area and population size.

With its unique placement between hot and cold ocean currents, a very special climate is found on the Faroe Islands. This is revealed on land as well as on the surrounding waters. The ecosystems in the waters around the islands, has for many years proven to be a great place for marine biology research. Researchers from around the world have travelled to the Faroe Islands for this special setting. With the unique living conditions for maritime wildlife, set by the climate and the nature, The Faroe Islands is in possession of an abundant biodiversity beneath the water surface. A world which for the ordinary man can seem very distant and intangible. But if we dive underneath the surface of the sea, a whole new world is revealed: The biggest and wildest nature you will find. Biologists estimate that the majority of the species found on earth live below sea level, and that we presently only have knowledge of a fraction of the life found on the bottom of the sea.

Motivation and relevancy 

The project springs from wanting to investigate how to intertwine the raw Faroese nature and modern architecture, together with a childhood fascination of the wonderful underwater world surrounding the Faroe Islands. The project will revolve around development and transformation of the existing aquarium towards a more modern aquarium with a special focus on education, information and research. The transformation project will therefore set out to become a new maritime research and information center, which will act as a link between the two worlds: The ocean and the islands.

The current aquarium in the Faroe Island is insufficient with regards to the demand which exists on the Islands. The interrest for both entertaining spare time activities as well as education and research within the field is big. Several hundred pupils and students visit Føroya Sjósavn each year, but the facilities are far from being satisfactory. The aquarium was founded with a purpose of collecting knowledge and experience in order to later be able to open an actual maritime research and information center. Even though the place as it is today is both small and pragmatic (some might even perceive it as being a primitive), it reaches visitor numbers on par with the regular national museum. The visitor numbers tell us that an amount equivalent to 25% of the Faroese population visit the aquarium yearly. For comparison an amount equivalent to 9% of the danish population visits The Blue Planet each year, which is Denmarks most popular aquarium. This shows a clear engagement and demand for such a facility in the Faroe Islands.

The Faroe Islands has over the past decade undergone a great societal development. Tourism as well as cultural offerings has had massive growth. In the capital Torshavn this has become truly visible in the city where the streets are oozing of life, with many possibilities and offers for locals as well as tourists. The mentality among the Faroese people has also changed. The locals have become more outgoing really leveraging what the city has to offer. From being able to count the restaurants of the city on one hand, there is now numerous cafés, bars and dining places all over the city center. However, there is an area where offers are sparse - there are not many places to go as a family with kids. Especially indoor activities are hard to come by. The nature of the Faroe Islands has a lot to offer, and is also the main force of attraction with regards to tourism. But the unpredictable rough weather conditions, really calls for places where you can go when the weather doesn’t permit enjoying nature outdoors. An aquarium and maritime center would be a really good supplement where you would be able to still enjoy the nature, despite of the outdoor weather. It would become an extension of the experience of the Faroese nature and culture. 

With this demand in mind, as well as the rising international interest in the Faroe Islands as a travel destination, there is a big opportunity in creating a place which can conduct research, showcase and convey the largest and most important ressource of the the Faroe Islands - The underwater biodiversity.

Kristina Nørgaard 2


As the project works towards making an architectural concept proposal, the process and workflow has been based on creativity, pragmatism and iteration. This made room for an explorative idea process where ideas could be evaluated back and forth against each other. As an overall structure the project can be divided into three phases, where each phase brought the project closer to a final proposal. Along with research, sketching and concept development a report was made concurrently, where each phase was documented. During the work the report also acted as an overview of the process and progress of the project.

Phase 1 consisted mainly of research and analysis. Existing conditions on the site were documented, and mappings and analysis of the surrounding context were made. We worked with the architectural programme through case studies of other aquariums in nordic countries. This provided useful knowledge of the maritime world. We collected information through conversations with subject matter experts as well as through field trips at modern aquariums in Denmark. We also researched the requirements of building close to the shore, and how the project would fit into existing regional building topologies and materials.

Phase 2 focused on concept development and design based on the preceding research. We took a closer look at transformation strategies and specified the architectural programme. This together with volume studies was used as a tool to provide shape. We continued to explore in relevant scales in both drawing and modelling.

Phase 3 collected all of the findings from the previous phases which gave room for the last adjustments and details. Subsequently the final presentation materiale of the project was made. Aside from drawings in relevant scales, the project was also presented in models of varying scale and detail.

Føroya Sjósavn and the nearby area

The current Føroya Sjósavn is located down by the shore in the village of Argir, which borders the capital Tórshavn with only the river Sandá as the dividing line. 

The village’s oldest houses date from the middle of the 19th century, and were built along a road which for 100 years formed the village’s main road and commerce street. Until 5 years ago, this street was also the only connection to the outside. Over the years, Argir has grown and now spreads far up the mountainside. In 2016, a new bridge was built over Sandá in the newly developed upper area, and a new main connection was created between the two districts, Tórshavn and Argir. As Argir has become a more integrated part of Tórshavn municipality, it can be seen that the village’s local activities are declining. School, institutions, football club and main road can all be found in the new and upper town area. This leaves the old main street and the entire lower town fairly inactive. Today, there is neither shops nor cafes in the village, and Føroya Sjósavn is the only offer that is open to the public.

However, the bay Sandagerð, which lies in the middle of the border between Argir and Tórshavn, is a popular area that attracts many people. Not only those who live nearby, but people from all over Tórshavn use the area, as this is the only beach in the vicinity. A recreational area is being established along the river Sandá, which empties into the beach, and the future plans are for a path to run around the entire outer boundary of Tórshavn. Føroya Sjósavn is located right next to this natural gem, and the ambition for this project was therefore to connect the site with the recreational area of Sandagerð, and create a building that would fit in and become a part of the landscape and the overall future plan for the area.

Site conditions

The arrival to the site is down a minor road from the west, where the alluring view to the east slowly opens up with the island of Nólsoy as a motif out on the horizon. To the south, sloping up towards the mountain, the village of Argir unfolds with its multi-colored houses in a typical Faroese building style. To the north you have the water and the view across the small bay towards the capital Tórshavn. The site has a narrow and elongated shape with a sloping terrain. It borders on private plots along the access road in the south, and is bounded by the beach and sea to the north. This means that there are many predetermined conditions and limitations that the project had to comply with:

Kristina 3

Adaptive reuse of a rocky landscape and an old ice house era

The project should be seen as a transformation of the site as a whole and not just a transformation of the existing building. The surrounding land - the sea and the rocks - will have a big impact on the project, where the relationship with the water, the adaptation of the rocks as well as the interaction between building and land becomes important factors.

The building of Føroya Sjósavn today consists of 4 combined volumes and a small boathouse with an associated landing. The oldest part of the building is an ice house, which is built of boulders and dates back to around 1900. At the end of the 19th century, many ice houses were built around the Faroe Islands. The houses were built with stone walls, without windows and with turf roofs. The purpose of the houses was to be able to store ice for cooling. Among other things the ice was used for cooling herring, which the line fishermen used as bait during their boat fishery. The era of the ice houses was an important step in history, which helped to improve the living conditions for the Faroese people.
Aesthetically the existing buildings do not seem like something worthy of preservation, but in line with the history that belongs to the place, the strategy was to preserve and pass on a piece of the ”ice house era”, which has been forgotten by many. The ice house and the boat house with the natural, local building materials will therefore be preserved and worked into the new project. The remaining buildings do not hold historical value and they are in bad condition. Therefore these will not be a part of the project, and instead be removed to make space for something new.

Faroese building practices and raw nature

The Faroese landscape has had a big influence on the project. Both when it comes to the nearby context, but also on a larger scale, where the rocky Faroese coastline has been the source of inspiration. Along the coast, where the high cliffs meet the water, there are countless gorges and caves of varying sizes. The spatial experience is something very special, as water, rock and light together create a unique atmosphere. As the project is located right by the water and has the programmatic context in the sea, this was a nearby source of inspiration and forms the basis of the building’s concept and main approach.

Modern Faroese architecture draws on the old Faroese building traditions, where building with nature was a basic premise. With the harsh and dominant climate that prevails on the islands, the landscape is an important resource when it comes to creating shelter from rough weather. Therefore it is often seen in modern Faroese architecture that building and landscape complement each other - and that in many cases it can be difficult to distinguish where nature ends and the building begins. In addition to providing security when storms roar, the beauty of nature plays an important role for the Faroese population, and building in harmony with nature is a way of emphasizing its beauty.

The new maritime research and information center

In line with research and various studies, a new building volume is added to the site right next to the preserved ice house and old landing area. The new maritime research and information center has turned into a unique and site-specific building. The design language both draws lines to the old Faroese building customs, as well as the magnificent raw and rocky landscape.

In terms of shape, the building is adapted to its surroundings and follows the movement of the rock towards the waterfront. At the back it blends into the terrain and becomes one with the landscape. A public path leads up above the building enhancing the stunning view over the fjord of Nósloy, and acts as a new link between the old village and the recreational area in Sandagerð.

An artificial concrete cleft runs through the building and reflects the many cliffs and caves found in the Faroese landscape. The cleft acts as the main movement through the building and connects the arrival area with the activity area around the preserved buildings on the opposite side. The aquarium is organized with the public functions facing the water, and with a public rooftop restaurant that benefits from the open view over the sea.

In a Faroese aquarium 59 species of fish can be experienced, distributed in around 25 aquariums. The very special attraction will be the porbeagle, which cannot be found in any other aquarium in the whole world. Furthermore various research programmes will be connected to the center, as well as education, conferences and lectures will be an integral part of the center activity. With multiple functions and activities the daily life in the building is well balanced, as the different user groups compliment each other very well.

Kristina Nørgaard 4


As showcased through the project a maritime research and information center would be very valuable for the Faroese population. Additionally, it would also be beneficial for the whole Commonwealth. Where it really shines with regards to the cohesion of the Commonwealth, is in tourism, education and research.

An increased attraction of tourists enriches the Faroese economy, and improved tourism means more foreign money would flow into the Commonwealth economy. There is also tourism within the Commonwealth, and better facilities on the Faroe Islands would further contribute to cohesion and cooperation between the three countries.

For the Faroese educational institutions, kindergarden all the way up to high school students would benefit from the exceptional educational facility. The foundation that a modern Faroese maritime center would give a Faroese student who continues their studies in Denmark, would provide them with unique perspectives which could enrich fellow students in Denmark. Many Faroese students return to the Faroe Islands with renewed knowledge, but others choose to stay in Denmark. Some might also go back to the Faroe Islands and do biology or other maritime related research. Also the other way around we might see students or researchers from Greenland or Denmark who will travel to the Faroe Islands to study at the maritime research center.

As the sea conditions around the Faroe Islands are very unique a new maritime center would also be able to attract foreign scientists and researchers, which will further improve the knowledge within the Commonwealth. Over the past century there has been an increased focus globally with regards to environmental changes. This includes global warming and rising sea levels, as well as sea pollution and dwindling sea life populations. One of the 17 goals of the UN also deals with ”life below water”, and is focusing on how to conserve and sustainably use the oceans and marine resources for sustainable development. In order to help these issues a lot of relevant research can be made in sea biology. With the right facilities this would eventually let the Faroe Islands and the rest of the Commonwealth be an internationally acknowledged beacon within environmental research.

Visualization of the new maritime center
Visualization of the new maritime center


Sketch showing the new maritime center
Sketch showing the new maritime center

Specialet er indstillet til specialekonkurrencen 2022.

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Senest opdateret 23. juni 2024