Editions / Past editions / EMYA2020 / Winner - The Meyvaert Museum Prize 2020 /

The Wadden Sea Centre (Ribe, Denmark)

The synergy of storytelling, nature, science, and art in this museum makes for an unforgettable experience that is informative and reflective, spectacular and intelligent. It is a remarkable achievement, establishing a new global benchmark for nature visitor centres.

Museum Architecture © The Wadden Sea Centre

About the Wadden Sea Centre

The Wadden Sea Centre is located on the west coast of Jutland, near Ribe. The Wadden Sea, home to one of the most important wetlands in the world, stretches about 500 km from Ho Bay north of Esbjerg to Den Helder in Holland. Promotor and director Klaus Melbye was instrumental in establishing the Wadden Sea National Park in 2010 and in the designation of Danish Waddensee as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014.

The Wadden Sea Centre establishes a new benchmark for visitors’ centres by combining innovative architecture, first-class design, and evocative storytelling. Presenting just the essentials and resisting the temptation to explain everything, the exhibition delivers a scientific message on a high level, while leaving time and space 38 for the visitor to explore. The synergy of nature, science, and art makes for an unforgettable experience that is both spectacular and intelligent.

It is by fostering a deep appreciation of all aspects of nature that the centre addresses global warming. Given the special significance here of rising sea levels, the exhibition offers a detailed explanation of tides, high waters, and episodes of catastrophic flooding, the worst of which was in 1634, when the water level rose more than 6 metres. The final gallery, “The Digital Ornithology”, an astonishing installation using 562 synchronised LCD screens, captures the impression of flocks of migratory birds arriving or leaving the Wadden Sea mudflats, where they feed and rest on their long intercontinental journey.

Dorte Mandrup’s innovative architecture demonstrates how sustainability requirements can be met using traditional material such as thatch in a contemporary style. The use of thatch, not only for the roof, as in traditional local houses, but also for the walls of the centre’s new extension, results in excellent acoustics. The whole complex is beautifully integrated into the marshland, visible through large glass panels.

Commitment to sustainability is more than a word here: large solar energy panels are hidden on the roof, lighting is energy efficient, and most products in the cafeteria are organic. Strong support from local residents has grown over the years – thanks to the centre there are new jobs in the area and B&B’s have multiplied tenfold. The centre also proposes guided tours to the coast and provides necessary equipment such as wading boots. A little solar quad allows disabled persons to visit.

The Wadden Sea Centre is a masterpiece. To quote Kenneth Hudson: “One definitely feels better coming out than going in”.