FLUGT, the Refugee Museum of Denmark, has opened its doors to the public following an opening ceremony featuring Queen Margrethe II and German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck. The museum aims to address “one of the world’s greatest challenges” by questioning common narratives on refugees and migration.
Its location is certainly a poignant one. Noted Danish architects Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) converted and extended buildings at a Second World War refugee camp in Oksbøl, Jutland, to create the striking new museum.
At its height, the camp became Denmark’s fifth biggest city. Today just a handful of buildings remain, which have now been repurposed into a fitting memorial.
A striking conversion
It’s BIG’s second project for museum operator Vardemuseerne following the opening of the Tirpitz Museum in western Denmark. BIG’s design has drawn praise in architectural circles across the world.
Two original hospital buildings from the former refugee camp have been connected by an undulating curved structure, which bends towards the street providing a welcoming entrance.
A steel frame and curved walls of glass feel at home alongside the original red brick structures. The glass walls look out on to a sheltered courtyard and forest, where the refugee camp was once located.
“We went into this project with all our heart, to address one of the world’s greatest challenges – how we welcome and care for our fellow world citizens when they are forced to flee,” said BIG founding partner, Bjarke Ingels.
Refugee stories in their own words
Despite the striking architecture, museum bosses hope it’s the stories inside that will leave the greatest impression. There’s a very clear aim to focus on individual people rather than the statistics that so often fill the news headlines.
The museum “will share and uncover the stories of the largest refugee camp in Denmark, as well as the story of the lived refugee experience of our time,” explained museum director Claus Kjeld Jensen.
Located just 60 miles from the German border, the original camp housed many German refugees fleeing Soviet troops in the last days of World War II. An estimated 250,000 Germans crossed the border into Denmark, tens of thousands of whom ended up at the Oksbøl camp.
But the museum tells more than just its own history. It also highlights the plight of refugees today, including those from Vietnam, Chile, Bosnia, Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine.
Visitors can hear stories from refugees in their own words on large video screens. Other stories are told on an audiotour of the grounds, where visitors can walk in the footsteps of the German refugees who once lived here.