The Blue Planet
by 3XN


The whirlpool-shaped Blue Planet aquarium by Danish studio 3XN has opened to the public in Copenhagen (+ slideshow).

The Blue Planet by 3XN

The building comprises a series of curved wings, designed to mimic the shapes generated by swirling water, and is clad in shimmering aluminium shingles that are reminiscent of fish scales.

The Blue Planet by 3XN

Containing around 7 million litres of water, the Blue Planet is the largest aquarium in Europe and contains a total of 53 aquariums and displays, housing over 450 different species of fish and creatures that can be found in rivers, lakes and oceans.

The Blue Planet by 3XN

Exhibitions are divided up between the curved wings and there is no fixed route around the building, which 3XN hopes will reduce queues for the most popular aquariums.

The Blue Planet by 3XN

The main entrance leads into a circular foyer at the heart of the building, where visitors can look up through a glass ceiling into a pool directly overhead.

The Blue Planet by 3XN

"Our wish was to bring our visitors all the way down to the world of the fish," said 3XN partner Kim Herforth Nielsen. "The design of The Blue Planet is based on the story about water and life under the sea. We visualise the construction as a whirlpool which draws visitors into the depths to the fascinating experiences waiting among fish and sea animals from all over the world."

The Blue Planet by 3XN

Located on the waterfront near the city's airport, the aquarium is expected to attract 700,000 visitors a year.

The Blue Planet by 3XN

3XN won a competition to design the Blue Planet in 2008. We first revealed images of the building back in November, when it was nearing completion.

The Blue Planet by 3XN

Other recent projects by 3XN include the Plassen Cultural Centre in Norway and an experimental food laboratory at Copenhagen restaurant Noma. See more architecture by 3XN.

The Blue Planet by 3XN

Photography is by Adam Mørk.

The Blue Planet by 3XN

Here's the latest project description from 3XN:

The Blue Planet

The whirlpool

Inspired by the shape of water in endless motion, Denmark's new National Aquarium, The Blue Planet is shaped as a great whirlpool, and the building itself tells the story of what awaits inside.

The Blue Planet by 3XN

The Blue Planet is located on an elevated headland towards the sea, north of Kastrup Harbor. Located right next to the water, the whirlpool binds land and sea together. The building's distinctive shape is clearly visible for travelers arriving by plane to the nearby Copenhagen Airport.

The Blue Planet by 3XN

The facade is covered with small diamond-shaped aluminum plates, known as shingles, which adapts to the building's organic form. Just as water aluminum mirrors the colors and light of the sky and thus the building has a very varied expression - like nature itself. As the flow of water, the building is flexible and dynamic, and this means that the lines of the whirlpool can be continued in future expansions.

The Blue Planet by 3XN

Into another world

Visitors reach the entrance by following the first and longest of the whirlpool's whirls, already starting in the landscape. With a smooth transition the landscape surpasses for the building, while the outdoor ponds mark the unique experience that awaits the aquarium visitors as they enter The Blue Planet: the whirlpool has pulled them into another world - a world beneath the surface of the sea.

The Blue Planet by 3XN

Flexible movement between exhibitions

A circular foyer is the center of motion around the aquarium, and it is here visitors choose which river, lake or ocean to explore. By enabling multiple routes the risk of queues in front of individual aquariums is reduced. Each exhibition has its own theme and entrance from the foyer, where sound and images are used to introduce the atmosphere of the different exhibition areas. The restaurant enjoys a magnificent view of the sea, which begins just a few meters away.

The Blue Planet by 3XN

Complex Building Project

The Blue Planet is a building of high complexity, which at one time creates a one of a kind setting for a unique and economically sustainable cultural experience, while creating the framework for the complex ecosystem of some of the world's most sensitive animal species. 3XN has been the project manager for a total of fifteen sub-consultants. From the very beginning ambitions have been high, and the organic forms of the complex facade have been a challenge, which have required a strong collaboration between the consultants.

The Blue Planet by 3XN

Above: floor plan - click for larger image

The Blue Planet by 3XN

Above: section one - click for larger image

The Blue Planet by 3XN

Above: section two - click for larger image

  • Kate Austin

    Wonderful. Very organic without looking like it’s landed from outer space. Would love to visit too.

  • Concerned Citizen

    At first I thought it was related to sand dunes, but no. Still a fine design, though. The curvilinear form is actually based on function, and it’s good to see function entering the vocabulary of design again.

  • Bunk Moreland

    It’s like a Zaha building, but aesthetically pleasing and appropriate.

    • blah

      Omgz, girlfriend you are such a biatch! Lolz.

  • Red Pill Junkie

    Magnificent. I’m sure we’ll see a lot about this building this year :)

  • Stefan

    Great building.


    Zeitgeist crap! Sorry boys!

  • Mon

    What a fantastic waterslide.

  • jaco

    Wonderful, very high quality!

  • Rajivnath

    Worth visiting the aquarium, not to be missed. God through nature can be seen right here.

  • Gary Walmsley

    The exterior cladding and scale put me in mind of Gehry’s museums without the the flamboyant, in-your-face excess.