DORTE GLEIE, CEO
What makes Den Blå Planet different?
Physically, it’s the size. With 20,000 animals (and 450 different species), 53 aquariums and seven million litres of water, we’re the biggest and most modern aquarium in Northern Europe.
Emotionally, it’s the way the architecture, the aquarium and the animal habitats come together to create a spectacular experience.
What is its aim?
We want to make our visitors care about life in the sea. We also aim to attract 700,000 visitors a year and place ourselves in the top five attractions in Denmark.
To achieve this, we’ve made learning entertaining. We provide fabulous stories about the sea through our fantastic animals, our dedicated people, digital platforms and printed material.
How many visitors have you had?
We opened on Friday 22nd March 2013 and had 21,000 visitors in our opening weekend. On our busiest day so far, we welcomed 8,000 people.
On Mondays we stay open til 9pm. The target audience at this time is adults without children and we’ll develop this concept further to cater to their interests.
How does it differ from Copenhagen’s original aquarium?
It was spectacular when it opened in 1939, but it was worn down and didn’t offer the framework for modern exhibitions or the service level people expect today. Den Blå Planet is modern and we’ll stay modern by developing and expanding.
We moved 3,000 animals from the old aquarium and added 17,000. That shows the difference in size and scope.
How did you choose the content?
We wanted to exhibit some truly fascinating animals, such as the hammerhead sharks, which we know will attract visitors. We’ve spanned the entire globe and its waters: cold as well as warm; saltwater as well as fresh.
We then developed fascinating habitats, which are designed to highlight the stories of the animals and nature’s cycles.
What technology have you used?
Digital screens by the aquariums expand the information and storytelling about the animals. We also offer an app to extend the experience with information, news and games. People can scan barcodes around the aquarium to get specific information relevant to the animals. To date, it’s the seventh most downloaded app in Denmark.
We also have dedicated personnel, who tell fascinating stories about the animals, without imposing on our guests. They’ve been very well received.
Structurally, the glass of the aquariums has to withstand the pressure of the water: the window in front of our 4.1 million litres Ocean Tank is 46cm (1.5ft)-thick.
What are the aquarium’s environmental features?
A service line was built 1.6km (one mile) into the sea to source water. This means water doesn’t need to be transported and can be circulated. As well as being used in the aquariums, we use it to cool the building. In the Amazonas area, which has a very hot and humid environment, ventilation comes from a natural circulation of air between the inside and outside of the building, rather than using energy-consuming fans and ventilators.
Danish building laws are among the strictest in the world, so we’re very environmentally friendly in comparison with countries outside Europe.
We’ll offset our CO2-footprint as soon as our yearly power use is measured.
Are there operational challenges?
Sourcing, cleaning and recycling water for the tanks. We do this via the pipeline and using an in-house water treatment plant, we purify and recycle the water every hour.
Why did you choose 3XN’s design?
The architecture is stunning – it has an international level that makes the building an experience in itself. The whole idea of the whirling architecture pulling our guests underwater to visit the fish and sealife fits the story we want to tell – of visiting a wet world that’s so different from ours.
In addition to this, the design’s organic shapes are built to allow future expansion of the aquarium and its collections.
How did you choose the aquarium’s location?
After negotiations with the municipality of Taarnby, we were offered this piece of land. It lies in a perfect spot – it’s close to Copenhagen Airport and the route of cruise ships and it’s also very easy to reach by Metro, train and car.
What educational programmes do you offer?
We have an extensive educational programme, ranging from pre-schoolers to high school students, and we anticipate receiving 50,000 visitors per annum.
Students are able to get close to the animals and examine them and their environment in different ways.
What research and conservation does Den Blå Planet do?
Research is high on our agenda. We work with universities and researchers from Denmark and abroad on a range of projects and are about to begin a survey of the marine animals in the sea just outside of the aquarium. We’ve also begun a research project with poisonous sea snakes from New Guinea.
What other amenities are there?
We have a restaurant which is rooted in the tradition of the Nordic kitchen, which focuses on fresh fish and shellfish, plus a shop selling souvenirs and toys.
Which aspect of the aquarium are you happiest with?
I love the whole feeling of being in the aquarium: it’s a unique setting. But the best thing is how well it’s been received – everyone else seems to love it too.