The Whale: Coming Soon to Northern Norway

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Check out these amazing designs for a new visitor centre on Andøya, 300km north of the Arctic circle in Norway.

Andenes is a small town on the northern tip of the remote island Andøya in Northern Norway. Just a few miles from shore, a deep sea valley attracts large numbers of migrating whales.

Striking architecture of 'The Whale' visitor centre
Image: Dorte Mandrup/Mir, Bergen.

This natural phenomenon has made Andenes one of the best places in the world for whale-watching. It's one of the primary reasons tourists make the trip to Norway's Vesterålen islands.

Set to open by 2023, a new visitor centre will provide a focal point for whale-related tourism and education. Check out these amazing designs for the attraction. We can't wait to visit!

The striking architecture

In November 2019, Danish architecture studio Dorte Mandrup won the international competition to design the attraction, which will be known simply as The Whale.

Render of The Whale at night.
Image: Dorte Mandrup/Mir, Bergen.

At the time The Whale's CEO Børre Berglund said that the design was a clear winner: “It is poetic and low-key and at the same time a very exciting and unusual building.”

“The building rises as a soft hill on the rocky shore – as if a giant had lifted a thin layer of the crust of the earth and created a cavity underneath,” explained the architects.

Whale windows facing the ocean
Image: Dorte Mandrup/Mir, Bergen.

The most notable aspect of the attraction will be the roof, made from a single curved concrete shell. Its design not only creates an attractive exterior, but also facilitates a large, column-free space inside.

Read more: The Best of Northern Norway in Pictures

The proposed walkable roof of The Whale visitor centre in Andøya
Image: Dorte Mandrup/Mir, Bergen.

As you can see from the designs, the curved roof will also allow locals and visitors to walk on the roof for fantastic ocean views.

Inside ‘The Whale'

The interior of the visitor centre is subject to a separate design competition. But the original architect's designs show the possibilities. The large space will feature exhibition space, a cafe, and a gift shop.

Proposed interior design of The Whale
Image: Dorte Mandrup/Mir, Bergen.

An important aim of the centre's exhibition space will be to raise awareness of whales and conservation efforts.

The Whale. Renderings by Mir, Bergen.
Image: Dorte Mandrup/Mir, Bergen.

On this note, it will be interesting to see how the topic of whale hunting is addressed. The practise has been an important part of Norwegian coastal culture for centuries, although the number of whaling boats operating in Norwegian waters has dropped considerably in recent decades.

Government support for The Whale

Recently, Norway's minister of culture, Abid Raja, confirmed that the Norwegian government will make a key financial contribution to the project. “This is an amazing project,” he said when confirming the news.

Sculptures of whales inside the visitor centre.
Image: Dorte Mandrup/Mir, Bergen.

“Whales know no borders and the content and the message of the Whale will speak to people all over the World. The Whale will focus on the strong emotional encounters between humans and whales and will emphasize the importance of caring for marine life and the environment. I am convinced that the initiators behind The Whale will create a unique place and magnificent experiences the world hasn’t seen before,” he added.

The Whale's chairman Benn Eidissen is pleased with the government backing: “The message from the minister is an important confirmation for us and means that we can keep the progress and begin planning the start of construction.”

Image: Dorte Mandrup/Mir, Bergen.

“We will also launch a design competition during the autumn, to find the best partners to help us create this extraordinary experience inside the building. It is a very exciting time ahead now and we can see the finish line,” he added.

The minister's announcement coincided with some of the best whale-watching days in the waters around Andenes. Killer whales, fin whales, humpback whales and sperm whales were all sighted.

“This is a day I will never forget. I have never seen so many whales at the same time on one trip. It’s almost like the whales are celebrating the news with us,” said whale watching captain Geir Maan.

About David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a professional writer on all things Scandinavia.

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1 thought on “The Whale: Coming Soon to Northern Norway”

  1. Great article, very impressive project, I lived in Andenes in the mid 80’s as exchange student, last visited 2016 and visited the whale museum and went on whale safari. I’ll have to visit again!


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