The bulldozer pulls up beside the old aquarium and starts tearing it down. The first spots where the ground has been excavated can be seen. The entire area is marked off with construction fencing. The staff of the Biological Institute Helgoland (BAH), a site belonging to the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), are full of anticipation. “For the past twelve years, we’ve been working with the AWI, the Municipality of Helgoland, local citizens, the BLUEHOUSE association, and policymakers in Schleswig-Holstein and at the federal level to make this important project a reality,” says Prof Karen Wiltshire, Director of the BAH. “We’re delighted that the wheels are now rolling, and we’re eternally grateful for the support we’ve received from policymakers. Good things come to those who wait.”
From the outside, the new BLUEHOUSE won’t look that different from its predecessor. Together with the adjacent research building, it will form an architectural ensemble and a protected landmark. But inside, it’s a different story: there will be a modern exhibition space with e.g. an 80,000-litre aquarium and a host of interactive elements. In addition, the BLUEHOUSE will be the new home for the AWI student laboratory OPENSEA. The 20-million-euro project will be financed by the federal government (Federal Ministry of Education and Research), the State of Schleswig-Holstein, and the Municipality of Helgoland.
For decades, the aquarium was an attraction and fixture for the island’s residents and tourists alike. Built in the late 1950s in classic Bauhaus style, it showcased the underwater world surrounding Helgoland until 2014. After falling into disrepair, the old aquarium eventually had to be shut down.
The new BLUEHOUSE will rekindle this tradition. Preserving the Bauhaus design language, it will combine aquariums, multimedia installations and exhibits to highlight the underwater world, Helgoland’s rocky tidal flats, and marine research, which has been pursued in the North Sea for more than a century.
“I hope the new BLUEHOUSE, just like the old aquarium, will be a gathering place for all of the island’s residents and guests,” says Dr Eva-Maria Brodte, Director of the BLUEHOUSE HELGOLAND. “Here, our goal is to share knowledge both hands-on and virtually. We want visitors to experience the fascinating world of the ocean up close and personal, and to come in direct contact with research. For example, they’ll have the chance to learn more about the island’s flora and fauna, and about how climate change is affecting them.”