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The Dutch seaside village of Lauwersoog is a popular place for fishermen casting their nets and visitors venturing into the UNESCO protected coastal wetlands. Situated between the expansive Wadden Sea and the Lauwersmeer National Park it creates an intersection between land and sea - between salt water and fresh water, between cultivated landscape and wild nature. Here in the almost endless Dutch landscape is an opportunity to experience a 360-degree view of the flat horizon, dominated by land and water. Created as a spiraling movement upwards and around, the Wadden Sea World Heritage Center gives visitors a unique panoramic experience of the incredible view over both the expansive Wadden Sea, the maritime life in the harbor and the rich grasslands of the national park.

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Between the salty water of the Wadden Sea and the calm fresh water of Lauwersmeer lies the small Dutch fishing village of Lauwersoog. Outside the protective dikes the landscape is dominated and continuously shaped by the tide. Inside prevails peace in the cultivated fields and nature.  This makes it an excellent place to experience the incredible ecosystem and understand our roll within and interconnectedness to the natural world. 

“The new Wadden Sea World Heritage Center pays homage to the historic maritime activity in Lauwersoog. At the same time, it presents a contemporary expression that enriches the diversity of the buildings in the area. Drawing inspiration from the the endless cycle of the tide, the gradual spiral-like incline – like the continuous rising and falling of the water surface – offers a stunning 360-degree view of the sea, the Lauwersmeer and the surrounding landscape as visitors ascend through the building. It almost gives you the feeling of being one with the sea,” explains Dorte Mandrup.

A Wadden Sea Trilogy
With a seemingly endless panoramic view stretching far over the Dutch landscape and the UNESCO protected Wadden Sea, the Wadden Sea World Heritage Center will complete our Wadden Sea Trilogy. Last in line after the Wadden Sea Center in Denmark and the Trilateral Wadden Sea World Heritage Partnership Center in Germany this marks the third Dorte Mandrup project in the unique environment of the Wadden Sea.

Around eight thousand years ago the rise of the sea level after the last ice age began to slow down, allowing the Wadden Sea to emerge. It is the largest unbroken system of intertidal sand and mudflats in the world, stretching from the coastline of Esbjerg in Denmark all the way through Germany, to Den Helder in the Netherlands. One moment it is under water and the next you are able to take a stroll on the seabed. This remarkable ecosystem is home to more than 10.000 species of plants and animals – from single-celled organisms to larger mammals. And the richness of sediment and plankton left behind on the sand during ebb makes it a crucial site for migrating birds, many of which are endangered. 

In the Netherlands, the Wadden Sea area is one of the only places where you can find seals in their natural habitat. Studying and rehabilitating rescued seals is therefore an important part of the work done in the Seal Center within the Wadden World Heritage Center. 

Ascending the building 
The Wadden Sea World Heritage Center is not an ordinary museum or visitor center. It is a working field station that wants to engage visitors and aims at making them active participants. This active involvement will strengthen the awareness of this important environment, our nature and climate. The building will provide spaces for students and researchers to study the ecosystem and wildlife of the Wadden Sea.

Rising from the harbor visitors are welcomed by a large south facing stair and ramp leading to the main entrance. Towards northwest another stair provides a space to unwind and watch the constantly moving sea – everchanging from boundless mud flats to endless ocean. Both inside and outside the primary material is wood which creates a warm, inviting and natural feel. The façade reveals glimpses of the activity inside and at the same time provides carefully adjusted shading. Naturally weathered in the wind and salty air, the facade is reminiscent of the historic maritime activity.

To the east an outdoor field station consisting of dammed basins will work as an aquatic research base and recreational area. This water garden brings visitors closer to the rich biodiversity of the Wadden Sea and gives a better understanding of the many species of plants and small animals living in this dynamic habitat.  

Inside the Wadden Sea World Heritage Center, activity is buzzing throughout the day. Tourists, locals, scientist and volunteers will have a unique opportunity to meet in this open space. From the main entrance, visitors enter the Reception Hall and move gradually upward through the building with the 360-degree scenic view of the surrounding landscape and into the inner workings of The Wadden World Heritage Center. Everything showcased is connected to the Wadden Sea climate, nature and activity of the region and research equipment lay ready for action in full view. 

Once visitors have reached the 2nd floor the experience of the exhibition culminates with an impressive view into the underwater world of the rescued seals in the large show pools. On the roof visitors will have the opportunity to see the pools from above, meet the seals up close or just enjoy the astonishing view and the rays of color from the evening sun.  

Groningen_Dorte Mandrup
"Drawing inspiration from the the endless cycle of the tide, the gradual spiral-like incline – like the continuous rising and falling of the water surface – offers a stunning 360-degree view of the sea, the Lauwersmeer and the surrounding landscape as visitors ascend through the building" – Dorte Mandrup
Dorte Mandrup, Groningen
Groningen_Dorte Mandrup
Groningen_Dorte Mandrup