Andenes is a small village on the island of Andøy, Norway. A mere 1.77 sq km in area, the settlement has quickly emerged as a prime whale watching destination due to its geographic location. How, you may ask?
Just 10 kilometres away from its shores, the continental shelf dives into the ocean, making it a point for swells of cold, nutritious waters to rise. This guarantees schools of fish and krill in a small area, and therefore, the flocking of migratory whales who come to feed on them. Seeing the potential in this little dot in the Arctic Circle, the Andøy Municipal Government began a science-meets-art project called ‘The Whale’, and part of it was a design competition to visualise a whale-watching facility that could effortlessly blend into the volcanic landscape.
“Throughout three decades we’ve learned that the (sighting of) big sperm whales who reside northwest of Andenes, is a stable phenomenon. We have let several hundred thousand guests from all over the world get close to the world’s largest toothed whale, and thus created enthusiasm...and...develop a world-class travel experience,” says Jonni Helge Solsvik, the mayor of Andøy. “This gives us a unique starting point to...give the world a whole new attraction where the whale is focal point.”
The results of the contest have come out, and Danish firm Dorte Mandrup has bagged the top prize with a pillarless, aerodynamic design for a whale watching hub that combines beauty and efficiency. They recently released artist's renderings of what visitors can expect once the structure is complete.
Designed in the form of a minimalist whale, ‘The Whale’ will be built to combat the turbulence and snow buildup of the harsh Arctic landscape. A viewing gallery and activity centre, it will allow visitors and locals to take strolls on its curved roof, from where they can enjoy watching baleen whales feed and swim in the archipelago. Of course, the midnight sun and the northern lights will provide company. Scandinavian countries are majorly ahead of the curve in terms of promoting sustainability, and ‘The Whale’ will be no different—the curvature will allow for minimal surface area and use of materials, which will help control energy consumption.
Inside, ‘The Whale’ will offer exhibition spaces, more cosy viewing points, offices, a café and a store, while well-appointed paths, platforms and viewpoints will highlight the landscape. A tidepool, a campfire and stepping-stones will “underline the connection between the building and the surrounding nature,” says Dorte Mandrup.
Ultimately, ‘The Whale’ hopes to raise awareness and fuse adventure with marine conservation. “The attraction will offer quality and legitimacy to whale safaris...in addition ‘The Whale’ is also meant to combine research, knowledge and attraction, which will prove to be valuable...for primary schools, kindergartens and other institutions,” confirmed Solsvik. We didn’t need a harder sell after seeing the building’s jaw-dropping design. Is it too early to start packing the travel gear?