Kalø Tower Visitor Access
The Kalø Tower Visitor Access could at first glance be dismissed as a simple viewing platform; it is not an especially extravagant structure, nor does it appear to be very complicated.
However, behind the visual simplicity lie layers of narratives and complex structural decisions, in order to create a staircase that is sensitive to the historical importance of the site. The Kalø Tower Visitor Access is an attempt to combine culture and nature, providing access to a space and view that, until 2016, were inaccessible.
Viewing platforms have received some criticism, given that they can end up distancing visitors from their surroundings by attracting too much attention to themselves. Is there really a need to create an architectural project in order to appreciate a view? In many cases, the answer is ‘probably not’, but in the case of the Kalø Tower Visitor Access, the choice of a staircase and viewing platforms seems justified.
The short walk up the stairs inside the old ruin feels like a natural extension of the long path across the isthmus. MAP Architects’ design is also about enhancing the visitor’s tactile senses, bringing them closer to the 700- year-old brick structure as they walk up the staircase. When they reach the top, there is, of course, the stunning view of the surrounding ocean, but visitors also feel exposed to the forces of nature, such as the strong winds blowing in from the water. The Kalø Tower Visitor Access is about immersing visitors in the landscape, not about alienating them as an external viewer.
In order to achieve this effect, MAP Architects and MAST Studio required the necessary engineering to connect the stairs to the existing tower. MAP Architects pride themselves on ‘engaging mostly with projects in challenging environments,’ which Kalø Tower certainly is. Building on a 700-year-old archeological site posed challenges regarding the staircase’s structural support, allowing only four ‘anchor points’ of contact between the new and old constructions.
To simplify the construction process, given the sensitivity of the site, the staircase was built in seven parts in a workshop and assembled on-site using a crane. MAP Architects also have a specific interest in using technology to enhance their designs, which proved to be especially useful for the Kalø Tower project. Using an in-house-constructed 3D scanner, they were able to scan the entire ruin — down to the individual brick — in order to reduce errors to a minimum when designing the staircase, so it could be assembled in the tower without problems.
The staircase is constructed using a steel frame clad with ash wood that has been treated using heat to make it durable enough to last up to 60 years without a coat of paint. Its warm color fits in with the reddish and yellow hues of the burnt brick; at the same time, the softness of the wood sets it apart from the harder and colder bricks. MAP Architects’ and MAST Studio’s use of the ash wood depicts their respect for the existing structure in the details of their staircase. Just as the wood has been treated to improve durability, the metal handrails have been painted black to improve their resistance to the harsh coastal weather.
The material attempts to prolong the lifespan of this new structure and comes with a sense of hope for the future of Kalø Tower. Its brick construction has been standing for 700 years — who says the Kalø Tower Visitor Access can’t stand there for 700 more years?