Another UNESCO project coming up - this time in Wilhelmshaven

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As the winner of the competition for the Trilateral Wadden Sea World Heritage Partnership Center Wilhelmshaven is announced, we find ourselves with yet another World Heritage project at our hands.

The building is going to house the administration of a three-country corporation between Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, working to protect the Wadden Sea area – an area that covers the coast of the three countries and is considered one of the most important intertidal ecosystems in the world.

“The Wadden Sea is the largest unbroken system of intertidal sand and mud flats in the world. It is […] formed by the intricate interactions between physical and biological factors that have given rise to a multitude of transitional habitats. The area is home to numerous plant and animal species […] and is one of the last remaining large-scale, intertidal ecosystems where natural processes continue to function largely undisturbed. It is considered one of the most important areas for migratory birds in the world, and is connected to a network of other key sites for migratory birds. Its importance is not only in the context of the East Atlantic Flyway but also in the critical role it plays in the conservation of African-Eurasian migratory waterbirds. In the Wadden Sea up to 6.1 million birds can be present at the same time, and an average of 10-12 million pass through it each year.” (Source:

No wonder that the Wadden Sea was appointed a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2009 (extended in 2014).

The area surrounding the building site presents the perfect setting for a naval harbor. Even Napoleon had his eyes set on the bay, and around 1850 development as an Naval Harbor really picked up, causing the urbanization of the site. Today however, there is only few remains of the naval quarters with a single, unmovable bunker appearing as a gigantic rock on the seabed.

"After studying the context of the site, we decided to integrate the heavy bunker into the new building. It is a natural anchoring point on the otherwise open field, which also allows us to use as little land and resources as possible. This practical and aesthetic application, gives way for the bunker to act as the building foundation for what at night becomes an shimmering and open lighthouse for the area,” says Dorte Mandrup.

The site around the bunker will be transformed into an organically shaped surface with lows and highs, functioning as rainwater pools. In dry periods the surface will be almost dried out and can be used for activities like roller skating, skateboard, cycling and social gatherings. In wet periods and even at floods, only the high points make dry paths between the pools.

The building itself will house office space and meeting facilities, sitting neatly on top of the heavy concrete structure that will also serve as heat storage. The bunker itself will be exposed through a double glass facade, enabling natural ventilation. It will function as exhibition and event space as well as a temperate archiving space.

In the daytime the building resembles the reflective surface of the Wadden Sea, that again is reflected in the surface of the rainwater pools. And at nighttime it expresses itself as a lighthouse visible from far away, representing the trilateral and global collaboration to save this important ecosystem.