BIG’s corkscrew like observation helix rises over Denmark’s rugged landscape

Designed as a unique vantage point and a sculptural landmark, the Marsk Tower by Bjarke Ingels Group offers a bird's-eye view of Southern Jutland’s prized landscape.

by STIRworldPublished on : Aug 21, 2021

Located amid the marshlands of Denmark’s Wadden Sea National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, the aptly named Marsk Tower (translated as “Marsh Tower”) offers an expansive view of the surrounding rustic, natural environ. Standing tall at 25 meters, the tower is intended to act as an object of sculptural art that emerges from the landscape itself: a lookout that will assist community development, serving as a major tourist attraction for people. In signature BIG style, the design of the tower is innovative in both structural and aesthetic respects, while adorning a literally rustic, corten steel materiality through and through. The unitary choice of material here emanates (and emulates) the intended natural aesthetic that merges with its surrounding agrarian context, while at the same time, becoming a visible new attraction in Denmark.

  • Rising to 25 meters, the Marsk Tower offers expansive views of Southern Jutland’s rugged landscape, and of the Wadden Sea National Park marshlands | Marsk Tower | Marsk Tower | Bjarke Ingels Group | STIRworld
    Rising to 25 meters, the Marsk Tower offers expansive views of Southern Jutland’s rugged landscape, and of the Wadden Sea National Park marshlands Image: Rasmus Hjortshoj, Courtesy of Bjarke Ingels Group
  • The 12-hectare area around this new ‘monument’ comprises Marsk Camp along with a number of amenities for tourists and locals | Marsk Tower | Bjarke Ingels Group | STIRworld
    The 12-hectare area around this new ‘monument’ comprises Marsk Camp along with a number of amenities for tourists and locals Image: Rasmus Hjortshoj, Courtesy of Bjarke Ingels Group

The helical observation tower derives its name from its central location amid the dense marshlands of the Wadden Sea Nature Park - one of the last remaining large-scale intertidal ecosystems in the world, widely known for its distinctive natural environment comprising diverse sea, dune, woods, heaths, fauna, and wildlife habitat. As part of a local relationship with the Marsk Camp Group, the Bjarke Ingels Group had been working on designing the observation tower, intended as an immersive attraction that offers an elevated perspective of a unique scenery to tourists from across the world.

  • The double helix structure of the tower has a single stack of rotating steel steps pivoted along a central core | Marsk Tower | Bjarke Ingels Group | STIRworld
    The double helix structure of the tower has a single stack of rotating steel steps pivoted along a central core Image: Rasmus Hjortshoj, Courtesy of Bjarke Ingels Group
  • The tower dons a unitary materiality in corten steel to emulate its rustic surroundings | Marsk Tower | Bjarke Ingels Group | STIRworld
    The tower dons a unitary materiality in corten steel to emulate its rustic surroundings Image: Rasmus Hjortshoj, Courtesy of Bjarke Ingels Group
  • Marsk translates to “Marsh” in Danish, aptly highlighting the eponymous tower’s centred location amid a sensitive marsh ecosystem | Marsk Tower | Bjarke Ingels Group | STIRworld
    Marsk translates to “Marsh” in Danish, aptly highlighting the eponymous tower’s centred location amid a sensitive marsh ecosystem Image: Rasmus Hjortshoj, Courtesy of Bjarke Ingels Group

“Marsk tower is a testament to our two decades-long friendship and collaboration with the blacksmiths of Schacks Trapper,” states Bjarke Ingels, Founder and Creative Director, BIG, on the collaborative spirit that made the project possible after all these years. Commenting on the structural soundness and accessibility considerations of the tower, the maverick Danish architect commented that the double helix provided two stairways and a central elevator, with a single stack of rotating steel steps pivoted along this core. A gently sloped ground level ramp provides access to  the elevator at the heart of the tower. Vertical movement along the Marsk Tower, allowing visitors to ascend and descend in a single spiralling loop “from the sand to the sky”, seemed to evoke a figurative connect between the marsh land and the Wadden Sea, for the team of designers and architects at BIG.  

  • Marsk Tower has successfully anchored itself as a point of communion for the local community as well | Marsk Tower | Bjarke Ingels Group | STIRworld
    Marsk Tower has successfully anchored itself as a point of communion for the local community as well Image: Rasmus Hjortshoj, Courtesy of Bjarke Ingels Group
  • The steps above and the soffit below appear as a single contiguous block | Marsk Tower | Bjarke Ingels Group | STIRworld
    The steps above and the soffit below appear as a single contiguous block Image: Rasmus Hjortshoj, Courtesy of Bjarke Ingels Group

In addition to the massive observation tower, the 12-hectare area around this new ‘monument’ in southern Jutland comprises the newly built Marsk Camp, featuring restaurants, a mini golf course, glamping tents, an ice-house, and accommodations for up to 126 motorhomes, with ample scope for expansion in the future.

  • The helix widens at the top, as the steps leading to the summit of the tower attain a longer dimension to host the sizeable observation deck on top| Marsk Tower | Bjarke Ingels Group | STIRworld
    The helix widens at the top, as the steps leading to the summit of the tower attain a longer dimension to host the sizeable observation deck on top Image: Rasmus Hjortshoj, Courtesy of Bjarke Ingels Group
  • The stacked, angular geometry of the steps imbues the intervention with an additional distinct visual quality | Marsk Tower | Bjarke Ingels Group | STIRworld
    The stacked, angular geometry of the steps imbues the intervention with an additional distinct visual quality Image: Rasmus Hjortshoj, Courtesy of Bjarke Ingels Group

“Because of the earth’s curvature, visitors will gradually expand their view of the horizon while walking to the top of the tower. On the foot of the tower, you will be able to see 4 km into the distance, but from the top of the tower the view is expanded to an 18 km view into the horizon,” explains Jakob Lange, Architect and Partner at BIG. The helix widens at the top, as the steps leading to the summit of the tower attain a longer dimension to host a platform with a much larger footprint than what the tower impinges on-ground. The resulting space at the top is a 110 sqm observation deck, facilitating views of the city of Esbjerg, the Islands Rømø and Sylt, and beyond the Wadden Sea to the North Sea.

The observation deck at the top facilitates views of the city of Esbjerg, the Islands Rømø and Sylt, and beyond the Wadden Sea to the North Sea| Marsk Tower | Bjarke Ingels Group | STIRworld
The observation deck at the top facilitates views of the city of Esbjerg, the Islands Rømø and Sylt, and beyond the Wadden Sea to the North Sea Image: Rasmus Hjortshoj, Courtesy of Bjarke Ingels Group

Apart from catering to extensive tourist activities, the tower that opened to the public mid-August, has also successfully anchored itself as a point of communion for the local community, who take great pride in the intervention. Not only does the holistic architectural and community setting surrounding the tower generate employment opportunities for the locals, the tower also succeeds in “celebrating the contextuality of Wadden Sea National Park’s unique landscape”. Furthermore, Marsk Tower is only one of BIG's numerous new projects in Denmark that enable architecture to promote connections between visitors and the natural communes the country houses, along with the rich historical connections it evokes . Tirpitz, a sand museum that intends to play along providing a delicate counterpoint to the terrible war history of the site in Blåvand, is located along the West Coast, 90 kilometers north of Marsk Tower. The Lycium, another upcoming project by BIG, is a museum dedicated to the immense nature and history of Fanø and the Wadden Sea, nestled in the dunes on the shore of Fanø Island.

  • Layout and plan, Marsk Tower| Marsk Tower | Bjarke Ingels Group | STIRworld
    Layout and plan, Marsk Tower Image: Rasmus Hjortshoj, Courtesy of Bjarke Ingels Group
  • Cross section through the tower | Marsk Tower | Bjarke Ingels Group | STIRworld
    Cross section through the tower Image: Rasmus Hjortshoj, Courtesy of Bjarke Ingels Group

Project Details

Name: Marsk Tower
Location: Hjemsted, Denmark
Type: Commercial
Collaborators: Schacks Trapper (Construction); AFRY (Structural Engineer)
Partner-in-Charge: Bjarke Ingels, Jakob Lange 
Project Leader: Tobias Hjortdal 
Project Team: Matilda Blomgren, Annette Jensen, Erik Kreider, Joshua Woo, Federico Martinez De Sola, Stefan Plugaru

(Text by Supreena Dash, intern at stirworld.com)

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