The Baltic Sea Comes To Life at Ozeaneum, as Behnisch Architekten Completes the Oceanographic Museum.
The weather-beaten city of Stralsund on the Baltic Sea is humming with excitement, thanks to the addition of Ozeaneum, the new German Oceanographic Museum designed by Behnisch Architekten. The well-known firm works out of offices in Stuttgart, Germany, as well as both Los Angeles and Boston in the U.S.
This aquarium is built right along the city’s harbor promenade surrounded by historic warehouses. It’s an open structure flooded from all sides by people and light, similar to the way stones in the sea near the water’s edge are flooded by the surrounding water.
“It has always been an intriguing challenge for us to bring modern architecture to historical areas,” says Stefan Behnisch, Hon. FAIA, BDA, RIBA, CIMA, partner of Behnisch Architekten. “But we always try to do it in a respectful way that’s in context with the fabric of that historical place.” Two such examples of this philosophy (and practice) are the Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research in Toronto, Canada, and “Haus im Haus” in Hamburg, Germany. Both emphasize environmental sustainability, as well as mixing the new with the old.
The international architecture competition for the oceanographic museum was won in 2002 by Behnisch & Partner, which was led by Gunter Behnisch, Stefan Behnisch’s father.
Planning his retirement, the elder Behnisch entrusted the project to his son’s well-established firm Behnisch Architekten. The project broke ground in 2006, with a ceremony attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who represented this region while serving in the German Parliament.
The architects at Behnisch Architekten designed the complex to incorporate large aquaria, comprehensive exhibitions about the Baltic Sea, the world’s oceans, marine research and resources, and a special display accommodating “Giants of the Sea.” The “giants” display has been created and presented in conjunction with the Greenpeace organization to raise knowledge of how to keep these creatures flourishing. “We want to fill visitors to the Ozeaneum with enthusiasm for the giants of the seas and motivate them to take action,” says Brigitte Behrens, the executive director of Greenpeace in Germany.
While the separate elements of the building were inspired by stones in the water, the exterior is reminiscent of sails in an ocean breeze as they wind their way around the façades of both the exhibition and aquarium sections. The large, pre-formed steel sheets called for shipbuilding technology indigenous to this port city. They are secured at isolated points on the building’s steel frame, without any further structural support; overhangs are braced yet appear to be freestanding.
The steel sheeting’s surface was treated with several coats of highly resilient white paint to create a further connection between the building and its maritime environment. The white façade draws together the various sections of the building, weaving manifold buildings together and giving them a strong, unified profile.
The main entrance to the museum lies on the new harbor promenade. The ground floor of the foyer—a self-contained area distinct from the exhibition areas and accessible to non-ticket holders—accommodates a shop and a café, as well as the museum’s front-of-house services. A 30-meter suspended escalator diagonally traverses the entire breadth of the foyer, past genuine whale skeletons, to bring visitors to the upper floor. From there, a splendid view opens across the Strela Sound and the new Rugen Bridge to Rugen Island.
Joining Behnisch Architekten on the Ozeaneum team are: exhibition designers Atelier Lohrer, Stuttgart, and Argea Fassbender & Heppert, Stralsund; energy concept creators Transsolar Energietechnik GmbH, Stuttgart; structural planners Schweitzer Ingenieure, Saarbrucken, Germany; landscape designers Nagel, Schonhoff & Partner, Hannover; and signage/graphic systems designer Ockert und Partner, Stuttgart. Behnisch Architekten—previously known as Behnisch, Behnisch & Partner—is a leader in creating distinctive architectural solutions that are environmentally sustainable. The Stuttgart, Germany-based architecture and planning firm maintains additional offices in Munich, as well as in Los Angeles, CA, and Boston, MA. Stefan Behnisch, Hon. FAIA, RIBA, BDA, CIMA, is principal partner, along with partners David Cook, RIBA, and Martin Haas in Stuttgart, Robert Hösle in Munich, Christof Jantzen, AIA, in Los Angeles, and Matt Noblett in Boston.