Construction Begins on the BLUEHOUSE HELGOLAND

In 2024, a new permanent exhibition on marine research will open on Helgoland
[18. February 2022] 

Construction will soon begin on Helgoland’s next attraction: in spring, work will begin on the BLUEHOUSE HELGOLAND. From 2024, visitors can expect a unique exhibition covering everything from the history of the North Sea to the future of marine research. At the heart of the exhibition is an 80,000-litre aquarium showcasing Helgoland’s underwater world. The project has received ca. 20 million euros of funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the State of Schleswig-Holstein and the Municipality of Helgoland. The exhibition was designed by the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), which will also operate the facility.

What research work is done on Helgoland? What plants and animals live in the waters surrounding the island? How has the North Sea changed over time? And what will be the future effects of climate change on our doorstep? These are just a few of the questions that visitors will find answers to in an interactive exhibition at the BLUEHOUSE HELGOLAND from 2024. In 600 square metres full of varied exhibits, they will have the chance to discover, experiment and learn in a playful way. By combining hands-on and virtual content, the BLUEHOUSE HELGOLAND will offer a wholly new perspective on the world of the North Sea and the research conducted there.


Researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute, together with the Municipality of Helgoland and the media agency “studio klv”, developed the concept for the exhibition. The Alfred Wegener Institute pursues research in extreme habitats of the polar regions and oceans – from the atmosphere to the bottom of the sea. At the facilities on Helgoland and Sylt, its researchers are investigating the North Sea and its coasts. In addition, the outstanding research infrastructure on the two islands is used by experts around the globe as the basis for their projects. 


The BLUEHOUSE HELGOLAND will be operated by the Alfred Wegener Institute, with support from the Municipality of Helgoland. But before that can happen, there’s still plenty of work to do for everyone involved: using the same location, the new exhibition will replace the Helgoland Aquarium, which had to be closed in late 2014 due to its state of disrepair. Renovations on the old building are slated for this spring.

Though the exhibition isn’t expected to open until 2024, the exhibition concept is already in place: the tour will cover four themes, starting with a surprise effect in the area “The North Sea is Formed”: visitors find themselves 8,000 years in the past and standing on dry land. Next, in the area “Underwater Exploration” a massive 80,000-litre aquarium showcases Helgoland’s underwater world. The journey continues one storey higher, in the area “Research in the Rocky Tidal Flats”. In impressive light projections, low and high tide are simulated, offering visitors a virtual foray into Helgoland’s unique rocky tidal flats. Thanks to a range of interactive exhibits, they can also do some experimenting of their own. Lastly, the area “Recognising the Future” shows how research institutes are working together to find solutions to the problems caused by climate change. The exhibition languages include not only German and English, but also the island’s own dialect, Helgolandic (Halunder).

From the outside, the BLUEHOUSE HELGOLAND will look just like the old aquarium building, as, together with the neighbouring research building, it forms an architectural ensemble with protected landmark status. But the original buildings will be complemented with a shimmering blue glass construction that bridges the 20-metre gap between the old aquarium and the research wing, creating a visual and physical connection between the exhibition and research activities. The new complex will also be home to the Alfred Wegener Institute’s student laboratory OPENSEA, which is currently located on the Helgoland plateau. The 20-million-euro project will be funded by the Federal Government, the State of Schleswig-Holstein and the Municipality of Helgoland.


“In recent years, German marine and polar research has time and time again demonstrated its outstanding importance – for example, through the MOSAiC expedition, and our role in discovering the largest fish breeding ground in the Antarctic. The BLUEHOUSE HELGOLAND also recognises these achievements and brings the fascination of the marine world from the ocean’s depths straight to visitors. The exhibition will make this unique habitat right off our coasts something that everyone can experience. At the same time, it will show why it’s vital that we protect it. Understanding the oceans is an important aspect of combating climate change. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research will continue to fight for their protection.” - Bettina Stark-Watzinger, Federal Minister of Education and Research



“See, touch and experiment – in order to grasp how diverse and incredibly vibrant the underwater world of Helgoland’s rocky tidal flats is. Thanks to the exhibition’s interactive design and the integration of the student laboratory OPENSEA, we will offer especially the young generation an exciting glimpse into our past and present, which are inextricably linked to the greatest questions concerning our future. Schleswig-Holstein, as a federal state situated between two seas, feels a strong connection both to coastal research and to disseminating its findings among the public. With the BLUEHOUSE, a small jewel will now adorn this popular island, and we are very pleased to see that, thanks to a joint effort, this plan will soon become a reality.” - Karin Prien, Minister of Education, Science and Cultural Affairs, Federal State of Schleswig-Holstein



“After more than a decade of planning and preparation, I’m delighted that construction will soon begin. Helgoland is the ideal location for the BLUEHOUSE. Here, we can look back on a very long tradition of marine and coastal research. Since 1892, researchers from the Biological Institute Helgoland have made countless key scientific discoveries regarding the North Sea and its coasts. In the new exhibition, we will share their stories, while also linking them to the future challenges in marine research.” - Dr Karsten Wurr, Administrative Director of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research


“The BLUEHOUSE HELGOLAND is a project for Helgoland and far beyond. After all, no matter who we are, our lives are closely tied to the oceans. Not only are they home to countless species; they also play a pivotal role in our climate system. Yet we still know far too little about this habitat, the largest on the planet. The new exhibition will allow us to take visitors with us on an expedition into the world of marine research, and to show them what it means when the oceans change right at our doorstep. In the process, we will also draw on our unparalleled data repository, which shows how the North Sea has warmed over the past several decades.” - Prof Karen Helen Wiltshire, Vice-Director of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research and Director of the AWI facilities on Helgoland and Sylt


“The BLUEHOUSE HELGOLAND will offer far more than a classical exhibition. Here, our goal is to put people in direct contact with research, and in a way that is accessible and shows an openness for dialogue. Visitors will have the chance to get a ‘living’ impression of the marine sciences, for instance by piloting a virtual underwater robot. In selected citizen science projects, they’ll even be able to try their hand at being researchers, allowing them to directly contribute to new findings.” - Dr Eva-Maria Brodte, Designated Director of the BLUEHOUSE HELGOLAND at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research




Matthias Strasser

Press Office

Sebastian Grote


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The Institute

The Alfred Wegener Institute pursues research in the polar regions and the oceans of mid and high latitudes. As one of the 18 centres of the Helmholtz Association it coordinates polar research in Germany and provides ships like the research icebreaker Polarstern and stations for the international scientific community.

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