2013– | Skagen, Denmark
Built: 2013- present
Client: Realdania Byg
Type: Restoration and Transformation
“The Grey Lighthouse” was abandoned as a functioning lighthouse in 2013. It was then sold by the
Danish Maritime Authority to Realdania. In collaboration with a group of stakeholders, they prospectively intend to develop the old lighthouse complex to a combined nature centre and field station for research on migrating birds.
The overall concept for the conservation work is to restore the light house as close as possible to its original state. However, this will be done to an extent consistent with the requirements for its future use. This way the historic assets of the complex are recreated as an atmospheric location for the new centre.
“The Grey Lighthouse” is located a few kilometres outside the city of Skagen on the east coast of Grenen, the northern tip of Denmark. Apart from the lighthouse the complex consists of a two-storey main building with two secondary wings to the northern and the southern sides. Further towards the north east of the complex is the old oil storage facility.
Architectural, the main syntax of the exteriors with its simple brick detailing remain intact. However, all façade surfaces have been rendered and painted yellow. On the main building most of the original windows have been replaced and the roof has been relayed with slate.
While the interiors of the wings remain relatively intact, the main building has been extensively modified. The main staircase seems to have been altered the least and still appears with a colour scheme believed to be original.
“The Grey Lighthouse” was designed in 1858 by Niels Sigfred Nebelong (1806-1871), who was later to become state architect of Copenhagen. The Grey Lighthouse replaced “The White Lighthouse”, designed by architect Philip De Lange in 1747. Later on The Grey Lighthouse was replaced by “Skagen West” in 1954. The Grey Lighthouse is an archetype lighthouse complex. A simple, functional construction designed on the premises of its surroundings in humble, yet genuine materials and with simple brick detailing. It is one of many lighthouses designed by Nebelong.
The complex was originally erected with exposed brick walls. The light house appeared in brown Dutch tiles and the remaining buildings in yellow Flensborg tiles. The roofing consisted of galvanized sheet iron.
In 2013 Elgaard Architecture was appointed to devise an architectural programme for the site in collaboration with the stakeholders of the project. EA was later given the opportunity to make a tender bid for the project, which they won. The programme has been developed through a close collaboration with the owner, Realdania and The Danish Nature Agency, Frederikshavns Council, Skagen’s Tourist Association and The Danish Ornithological Association as leaseholder and stakeholder respectively. A workshop was held to discuss the project requirements and expectations.
Based on the identified heritage assets of the lighthouse, the programme defines the practical framework for the establishment of a new nature centre focusing on birds and bird migration in the listed lighthouse in the spectacular location of Skagen.
The first phase has primarily consisted of inspecting and documenting the lighthouse complex to create an overview of the different building elements including doors, windows, panel works etc. Furthermore a line of invasive building archaeological investigations has been executed enabling a more precise mapping of the structural development of the complex.
Over a longer period a more detailed historical account of the complex as well as its architect will be completed by an appointed historian.
Based on documentation, observations and considerations it has been decided to restore all exterior surfaces and to reconstruct these with or without traces from the historical development prior to reconstruction. The roof will once more be laid in sheet metal and the exposed brick facades will be reinstated. It is at the time of writing being investigated as to whether the existing surface can be fully or partly evoked while still preserving adequate thermal and technical properties.
On the interior, the floor areas will be recreated according to Nebelong’s original drawings as far as makes sense to its future function. All surfaces, wooden floors, plaster ceilings, doors, windows, panel walls and remaining wood work will be reused and reconstructed where necessary. All surfaces will be treated in a colour scheme based on the original design.
During the early stages of the project the possibility to gently clear of the concrete render is investigated using water jet at different pressures