ARKEN’s architecture

ARKEN’s distinctive ship’s architecture blends with its surroundings and creates a sensory frame around the art.
ARKEN’s architecture


ARKEN lies like a giant sculpture by Køge Bay. The museum’s architecture was inspired by its maritime surroundings. Since its opening in 1996, ARKEN’s axes have stretched into the landscape like long arms, linking the museum to the area and inviting you inside for an alternative museum experience.

When an architect’s competition was announced in 1988 for the creation of a new art museum in Copenhagen’s Vestegn district, 25-year old architect student Søren Robert Lund took part and won with his visionary proposal.

He wanted to incorporate the lines of the landscape into the museum’s architecture, thus blending it with the coastal and sand dune landscape. His vision was to use a stranded ship as a metaphor for ARKEN’s shape.

1988: Søren Robert Lund wins the architect’s competition


1996: ARKEN opens


2008: 1st extension


2009: 2nd extension


2016: The Art Island opens


The ship metaphor

ARKEN’s architecture

Photo: Lars Skaaning

A ship has laid anchor.

ARKEN’s architecture and identity highlights its position by the water. Just like on a ship, much of the building’s construction is visible. Both inside and out fragments of ship elements are displayed, such as the use of outward nuts and bolts, the visible pipes under the ceiling, the dark colours and the echoing acoustics, all reminiscent of a large ship.

Multiple functions

ARKEN’s architecture

Art Axis

The ship metaphor is repeated in the museum’s multiple functions, which help make the museum visit an all-encompassing experience.

In addition to ARKEN’s exhibition rooms, where you can view the collections and the changing special exhibitions, ARKEN also accommodates a wide range of public facilities, such as the ARKEN SHOP, the film hall and creative workshops for children and families.

The foyer is the assembly point, giving access to the museum’s many functions.The art axis is Denmark’s biggest exhibition room and comprises ARKEN’s main ship and backbone. The Bi Axis cuts into the Art Axis with its distinctive red colour and acts as a link between the foyer and  the art axis.

ARKEN CAFÉ is shaped as a floating ship’s deck, which hangs on the side of the museum. Here the maritime ambiance is complete with a view over Køge Bay.

A deconstructive shape

ARKEN is one of the best examples in Denmark of deconstructive architecture, which breaks away from usual shapes to make way for slanting angles and optical illusions.

The deconstructivist wave washed over Europe in the 1980’s, and it was this style that inspired Søren Robert Lund to design ARKEN like a fragmented ship.

The shape of ARKEN is testament to Søren Robert Lund’s vision of museum architecture that is just as visionary as the art itself.

Deconstructivism takes recognisable shapes and breaks them down; they are split, overlapped and combined in new ways.

In ARKEN’s case, the building’s lines point in numerous directions, and the basic layout consists of a number of assembled building parts, put together in an expressive way.

ARKEN’s architecture

ARKEN CAFÉ is shaped as a floating ship’s deck, which hangs on the side of the museum.

Sensuous architecture

ARKEN’s architect Søren Robert Lund, thought in strong contrasts, from the naked concrete grey walls to the red walls in the bi-axis and cloakroom.

Large open rooms followed by small, closed rooms, creates dramatic transitions. The rooms’ slanted angles make the architecture surprising, dynamic and contrasting, and the museum has been built to challenge the eye and your balance.

The curved walls, the staggered levels, the lighting effects, the visible constructions and distinctive colours stimulate the senses and are felt by the entire body.


ARKEN’s architecture

ARKEN's Bi Axis

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