copenhagen-based firm MAP architects has installed an observational staircase within a 700 year-old medieval ruin, making it fully accessible to the public for the first time in centuries. offering a completely new spatial experience, the intervention allows visitors to enter and climb ‘kalø castle’, a historical set of ruins in eastern jutland, 20 kilometers from the danish city of aarhus.

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‘kalø castle’ is an historical set of ruins in eastern jutland
image by bjørn pierri enevoldsen (main image by david a. garcia)

 

 

MAP architects’ design permits visitors to both perceive the building’s archaeological layers, and take in views of the surrounding landscape. nationally revered as a major tourist attraction, ‘kalø castle’ is a three-storey brick tower that has remained empty for centuries. a zig-zagging staircase — only visible from inside the structure — spirals upwards, leading to existing openings in the façade and balconies that permit sweeping views.

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the staircase makes the structure accessible to the public for the first time in centuries
image by david a. garcia

 

 

the scheme seeks to immerse the public in the medieval building’s archaeological layers, while simultaneously allowing visitors to ‘levitate’ above the landscape. given that the site is archaeological, supporting the structure with the few anchor points available was a considerable challenge. ‘while being minimal in its detail, the staircase creates an intricate space within the cubic emptiness, culminating at its top open to the sky,’ explain the architects.

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the zig-zagging staircase spirals upwards, leading to existing openings in the building’s façade
image by david a. garcia

 

 

MAP architects used a portable 3D scanner to obtain a digital scan of every single brick, meaning that tolerances could be reduced to a minimum. ‘by the constant shift of landing size, step and rise ratios, the design of a continuous handrail without height variations was achieved, greatly reducing the formal and visual clutter,’ says the team.

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balconies permit sweeping views across the surrounding landscape
image by david a. garcia

 

 

the staircase itself is based on a steel frame construction. clad in ash wood, the structure has been heat-treated to maximize durability for up to 60 years without the need for paint. the metal stairs and handrail are painted in a matte black finish to protect them against the coastal site’s harsh weather conditions. in order to minimize damage to the monument, the intervention is only supported by the ruin at four key points.

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the scheme seeks to immerse the public in the medieval structure’s archaeological layers
image by bjørn pierri enevoldsen

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the design team was able to create a continuous handrail
image by bjørn pierri enevoldsen

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balconies protrude outside of the building’s brick walls 
image by bjørn pierri enevoldsen

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the intervention allows visitors to enter and climb the castle
image by david a. garcia

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the site is located 20 kilometers outside the danish city of aarhus
image by david a. garcia

 

 

project info:

 

name: kalø tower visitor access / kalø slotsruin besøgs adgang
location: rønde, denmark
design: 2013
construction: 2015-2016
client: naturstyrelsen/danish ministry of the environment
site area: tower: 145 sqm, parking and recreation area: 2,654 sqm
total gross floor area: stair in tower: 38 sqm, parking and recreation area: 2654 sqm

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