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Norway Announces Stunning New Whale-Watching Museum Inside the Arctic Circle

Norway does minimalist design unlike almost anywhere else in the world. In 2017, the country announced the world’s largest underwater restaurant with a jaw-dropping design that feels straight out of Blade Runner 2049. It’s also proven that even the lowliest structures —like this $2 million roadside toilet — can be made beautiful with a meticulous eye toward design. Now, Norway is relying on those same sensibilities to craft what may be the world’s most stunning whale museum.

From every direction, the aptly named The Whale appears as a massive rock rising gently from the surrounding beachfront. The design blends so seamlessly into the shoreline that it seems to all but disappear. According to design firm Dorte Mandrup, “The building rises as a soft hill on the rocky shore — as if a giant had lifted a thin layer of the crust of the earth and created a cavity underneath.” It’s a parabolic structure that undulates along the coast with a concrete roof that will serve as a whale-watching platform. It’s not only beautiful but sustainable and easy to maintain.

Inside, visitors will find a sleek, modern museum aimed at educating visitors about northern Norway’s diverse marine life — whales, in particular. The water-facing wall will consist of seamless, floor-to-ceiling glass for unobstructed views to the Norwegian Sea. Not surprisingly, it’s also likely to become one of the best new places to spot the Northern Lights.

The Whale will be situated in Andenes, a coastal village at the northern tip of Andøya in northern Norway. The extreme location nearly 200 miles inside the Arctic Circle is vast, rugged, and pristine. It’s routinely ranked among the world’s best destinations for whale-watching — a fact that draws more than 50,000 nature-loving travelers each year. In summer, the deep, cold waters surrounding the archipelago attract sperm, minke, and pilot whales, while humpbacks and orcas can be spotted in winter on their annual migration through the Vesterålen fjords.

Danish architecture studio Dorte Mandrup submitted the winning design amid an international competition that included 37 other entries. The unique concept beat out some of the world’s leading design firms, including Snøhetta and BIG. The Whale isn’t expected to open until 2022, but we’ve no doubt it’ll be worth the wait.

For Scandinavian design aficionados, check out our guide to cultivating minimalist style in your own home.

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Mike Richard
Mike Richard has traveled the world since 2008. He's kayaked in Antarctica, tracked endangered African wild dogs in South…
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