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 on our hands.

The building will house the administration of a three-country co-operation between Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, all working to protect the Wadden Sea area – an expanse that covers all three coasts 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 harbour. Even Napoleon had his eyes set on the bay, and around 1850 development as a Naval Harbor really picked up, causing the urbanization of the site. Today, however, there are only a few remains of the naval quarters with just 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 a 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, skateboarding, cycling and social gatherings. In wet periods and during floods, only the high points will facilitate 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.

During daytime, the building resembles the reflective surface of the Wadden Sea, which in turn will be reflected in the surface of the rainwater pools. At nighttime it expresses itself as a lighthouse visible from far away, representing the trilateral global collaboration housed here, with the purpose of preserving and saving this valuable ecosystem.