Nazi bunker on Danish coast transformed into Tirpitz museum
Anna Mitchell reports on one of the contenders in the Visitor Attraction category of the 2018 InAVation Awards.
The Tirpitz bunker, a brutal concrete construction at odds with its neighbouring landscape of meadows and sand dunes, has become the unlikely spot for a new museum. The attraction has been built to tell not just the story of the bunker – built near Blåvand during World War II but never used in battle – but also the lives of those who settled and lived there and the secrets of the surrounding area.
Utrecht-based experiential designer Tinker Imagineers was tasked with unfolding those stories for visitors.
Gijs Leijdekkers, experience designer at Tinker, said the plan started with the idea to use three galleries to tell three stories: the amber that is found along the coast, the concrete Atlantic Wall built by the Nazis in WWII and the local history of the area and its people. In addition, the Tirpitz bunker was itself to be a monument, which Tinker treated as such by telling its story through subtle projections. The company also designed a pulsing projection for the central area to connect the galleries. A fourth gallery is reserved for temporary exhibitions.
Stories are told with an audio guide (in Danish, German and English) which has helped remove the need for written descriptions. This personal audio commentary is supported by soundscapes that reinforce desired atmospheres throughout the museum, with Joost van der Spek, cross media content developer at Tinker who wrote the script for the attraction, pointing out that light and audio are very important to achieve atmospheric effects.
Kloosterboer Decor, décor builder, integrator and long-term Tinker partner, handled the installation and parts of technical design of the AV equipment installed as well as developing the electrical infrastructure.
It created each exhibition space as a standalone area with its own server rack and network switches. The racks are networked so that central control is possible using two Pharos 4.3-in touchscreens.
In terms of audio, the rooms were also considered separate; there was no overarching audio server to feed the various speakers, instead most areas stand alone with active speakers fed by BrightSign media players.
Van der Spek points out that one of the biggest challenges in the exhibition design was the abundance of daylight. “It’s much easier to create atmospheres and work with AV in a black box. But the museum has some high windows, it’s connected with the outside landscape and you are very aware if the sun is shining or it’s raining. This museum couldn’t be anywhere else. We had to work with that instead of fighting it.
"So it became the ‘big idea’: we enhanced the strong connection with the architecture of the sturdy countryside by taking the rhythm of nature as the leitmotiv of the scenography. Every room has its own rhythm, beating in sync with its storyline: high and low tide, night and day, good and bad, hot and cold, the passing of time.”
Army of concrete
The area that focuses on the Atlantic Wall is called the Army of Concrete and is a gallery filled with bunkers.
Within this space Kloosterboer Decor installed nine Casio XJ-UT310WN ultra short throw projectors fed by BrightSign HD1023 players. Audio is delivered by JBL Control 126W in-wall speakers. Two Samsung monitors were also deployed.
“The rooms emulate the bunker landscape you see outside the museum,” explains van der Spek. “Each bunker has its own story and is focused on a specific person. You can go inside to explore their personal story. For example, one looks at a Danish girl who was in love with a Danish officer and the bunker is her bedroom.”
“Another interesting one is a room where we have the costume of a real soldier from the war with a bullet hole in it,” adds Leijdekkers. “We project a show on to the walls of that room to tell his story and, at some point in the film, we project him on to one of the walls and the costume pops up behind him.”
Van der Spek adds: “It’s a combination of projection and showcase. First, we project on the showcase, people don’t see the actual uniform and at the end of the story, it appears. We’re mixing media.”
The seven bunkers are designed to encourage visitors to explore and unravel the stories and make their own discoveries. Drawers or wardrobes can be opened or letters found on tables to be read. Van der Spek says this constructivist approach allows stories to be told without a commentary.
“We tell the story through the audio guide and most rooms have some sort of hidden projection,” he continues. “For example, in the girl’s room the ceiling has dreamlike images of her being in love. There’s one of a German soldier who after 60 years finds his bunker on the beach. We use projection and audio to see his thoughts.
“The soundscape comes in every so often as well with noises like planes flying overhead. At intervals, there’s a searchlight that creates big, sharp shadows.”
Forest of amber
“We knew we needed strong scenography to present the amber collection,” says van der Spek. “It couldn’t be an entertainment park, it couldn’t be too childish but it couldn’t be too abstract or highbrow either. It was a really fine line and this was the hardest space to get right.”
The decision was made to use the ‘Gold of the West Coast’ space to present the amber in a fake but enchanting forest of beautiful iron trees, perforated in patterns. Extensive use of gobos, LED lighting and five iiyama monitors and BrightSign players create the desired result.
“We have LED in the trees programmed to create different effects,” explains Leijdekkers. “At some point rain falls. If you imagine this was a forest and the sea came up and the resin floats to the shore. We had to show a combination of the resin dripping, the water dripping and the sea level. The LEDs were programmed to change colours. The amber dripping is a gold, reddish, yellowish colour. Slowly it turns because the water is falling and then it’s the sea. The whole atmosphere of the room changes and it’s beautiful but it also refers to the origins of amber.
“Inside each tree are the showcases. You find stories about recognising amber, about amber hunters and myths associated with amber as well as the forest where it was created 40 million years ago and the inclusions of insects preserved in the amber.”
“You experience 20,000 years of history in a five-minute epic, poetic spectacle.”
All of this is supported by a soundscape producing what Leijdekkers describes as “tingling sounds” and created by a BrightSign HD223 player and eight concealed Genelec 4010 loudspeakers, combined with REL subwoofers.
Within the room there are three globes of amber that visitors can enter. The outside of the globes pulsate with LED lights. Inside, visuals are created by a Canon projector, Samsung and iiyama monitors and more LED lighting. Audio is delivered by a mix of Genelec and JBL loudspeakers. BrightSign HD223s control and feed the AV equipment.
West Coast Stories
Huge windows dominate each room and, although this gallery has blinds, the museum wanted them open most of the time.
West Coast Stories tells 100,000 years of west coast history. Visitors explore showcases and dynamic panoramas and a 6-minute show starts to play - twice and hour during which the blinds do shut to simulate nightfall. A boat is situated in the middle of the dune landscape, in which visitors can sit to watch the show that can also be enjoyed from anywhere in the room.
“You experience 20,000 years of history in a five-minute epic, poetic spectacle,” says Leijdekkers. “We start at the ice age where you’ll see mammoths walking by, we have Stone Age people and then they notice a building tsunami wave representing the North Sea that was to bury where they were living. The space transforms to an underwater room for a moment, you see Vikings pass above your head in their boats before you end up in the 1880s. There is a stranded ship on a sandbank, then a lifeboat and the transition is made to tourism beginning in the area as people get more mobile and visit from cities. The stories end with current life.”
Van der Spek says there are a number of special effects added to the show. “For example at one point a boy lets a kite up, the kite is real and hanging in the room. When campers put up a tent there’s actually a real tent lifted up within the lines of the projection. When there’s a storm, there’s some wind, it’s multisensory.”
Leijdekkers takes up the story: “The show is created with a Christie Pandoras Box system. It’s the most complex show we run in the museum and uses 11 Eiki projectors and a Genelec sound system.”
The projected show touches on all the areas you later see in the showcase, says van der Spek. “The showcases are in a landscape of abstract dunes that we project on to using the projectors that are installed for the main show. We can turn them into waves using video-mapping. We create a world that is both realistic and abstract. We don’t try and make it look like a perfect dune but it comes to life as the landscape.”
LS423 BrightSign media players, Samsung monitors, three Optoma ML750ST small projectors, iiyama ProLite touchscreen and Casio XJ-UT310WN projectors are used to create the effects that surround the feature show.
“The museum has some big high windows, it’s connected with the outside landscape. We had to work with that instead of fighting it.”
The corridor leading up to the bunker uses proximity sensors and six Vivitek DH758UST projectors, coupled with a BrightSign HD1023 player, to lead people in.
Van der Spek says: “It’s quite a long corridor and we had this idea to create five or six projections on to thin orthographic shapes made from steel. We start with a map of Europe and we project onto these thin steel lines to create a 3D effect and allow us to project inside the map. We tell a story of war and different countries in five steps that zoom from Europe, to Denmark, to the Atlantic Wall, to the place the bunker is built and finally the actual bunker itself. It is synced with the audio guide.”
Leijdekkers continues: “In the bunker itself we tell the story of what would have been there. The bunker was prepared for a cannon but the war ended before it was finished. The basic structure is there but it never functioned.
“The stories here are abstract and told with lights and shadows. Suggestive projections show what would have been there, like a big machine part to hoist the cannon into a different place. The hoist appears in front of you and as you walk to different areas motion sensors detect you and images and sounds appear. It’s like you are walking around an empty room and objects suddenly pop up.”
“They’re visual echoes of what would have been there,” adds van der Spek. “It was difficult to integrate technology into that space. Because of the climate it had to have an IP67 rating. We had gobo projectors to create ghostly images. In the middle of the room we have a searchlight, one of the only interactive objects in the whole museum. People can point the searchlight around the room to highlight and activate stories and areas of the bunker.”
The space between
“The galleries are linked by a central room,” continues Leijdekkers. “There’s a poetic floor projection and ambient music with content running on a five-minute loop. It has benches where people can rest and wait for each other. It’s a space between all these bigger stories and it’s very tranquil.”
Kloosterbooer Decor installed a Canon XEED WUX450ST projector with BrightSign HD223 media player to create the floor projections, while ambient sound is from four Genelec 8330 active speakers and a sound processor.
The brief was to create “the best museum in Denmark” and whether or not that’s been achieved is down to the individual visitor. However, what Tinker and its partner Kloosterboer Decor have done is take some average artefacts, whispers of stories, limited facts and an unfinished wartime project to create a fascinating and engaging narrative.