Recently, the Danish architectural practice Schønherr won an award from the Society of Concrete Elements for their work with a newly developed nature park in Denmark. Besides having a strong figurative appeal, Schønherr wanted to emphasize how nature always has something new to offer.
Imagine a group of geese taking off from the water in a big swirly movement. This imagery is the main inspiration for the fundamental architectural idea behind the recently established nature park Lake Fil (ed. Filsø) in the western part of Denmark.
“We chose to work with this idea mainly due to two reasons”, explains Rikke Juul Gram, partner, architect and creative director at Schønherr Architects, who developed the area for the private fund Aage V. Jensen and for the national organisation Real Dania, and who continues:
“We were looking for a historical perspective related to the area and found that Danish painter and artist Johannes Jensen had done a series of paintings there portraying the local nature. At the same time, this imagery revealed a structure, which – like nature itself – was anything but a straight line”, she says.
Associated partner and architect at Schønherr Rasmus Stougaard adds to this:
“When walking around in this area, new sights and discoveries abound all the time. We wanted to support this exploration by creating room for suspension and for an element of surprise. With the curvy shape, you are actually never sure what awaits you 10 metres ahead”.
An old lake reappearing
Lake Fil is situated very close to the North Sea, a quite rough area buffeted by heavy winds, with dry and desert-like sandy earth and a marsh area that is very often flooded. In the early part of the 20th century, the area was drained in order to create fields and to enhance the production of corn and farming. This, however, necessitated removing the lake and thereby all the natural life in the area, including all the fish and birds.
The area of Lake Fil was before the draining and is again now as big as 4.300 square metres.
Since the area has been reopened as a nature park, it has attracted a significant number of visitors:
“Choosing the best area to place a bridge for people to actually touch the water, see the fish and, with a guide, experience how to catch the animals, desiccate them and live one-on-one with nature was critical, and thus it was very important for us to pick the least disturbing place. It´s a delicate matter to balance at the same time the use of nature to teach the coming generations about nature and how to respect it and to showcase the area so that it will attract a lot of human attention to enjoy nature”, Rikke Juul Gram says.
An award for aesthetical composition
The nature park comprises a road to access the area, a communication house, a parking area and a bridge. The road traverses through spectacular scenery in the preserved landscape to bring visitors to the parking area and the great ellipse, which with its simplicity catches the communication house as well as folding out the great horizon reflected by the water.
The Danish Society of Concrete Elements awarded Schønherr for the way the composition was inspired by the shapes and movements provided by the landscape of the region and how this continuing ellipse throws itself out past the boarders of Lake Fil, allowing the visitor to catch a glimpse of the sky, the horizon and the magnificent landscape in one glance and in one interconnected movement.
The Society specifically pointed out the ingenuity of how both the horizontal and the vertical elements of the bridge, made from industrial concrete elements, were used to provide the project with the necessary weight to complement the immense landscape.
Live nature to preserve it
With the inauguration of the nature park, the nearby municipality decided to support not only the project but also the education of the next generation by offering visits to the park for every child upon reaching the 6th grade.
For this purpose, the communication house comes in to play. Unlike other landscape planners and architects, Schønherr also composed the complementary buildings, while also focusing on how these were not meant to be the main focus of the project:
“The communication house supports the main idea behind the figurative appeal decided for this project and not the other way around”, explains Rasmus Stougaard, who continues:
“Every material utilised for the communication house was made up of elements already found in the landscape where the house is situated.”
Given the increase in visitors of all ages, the project is considered to be a success. And not only when measured in concrete numbers, but also in terms of meeting the original purpose itself, which was to emphasize nature and to create a strong natural fundamental element for the next generation to enjoy. Further, overall wildlife numbers have exploded over the past three years and biologists are excited about this small miracle.