Denmark’s Refugee Museum


Denmark’s Refugee Museum




Varde Museum


Culture, Interiors


2,075 / 22,335



Following the opening of Tirpitz Museum on the West Coast of Denmark – FLUGT – Denmark’s new Refugee Museum, is BIG’s second museum for Vardemuseerne: a local institution dedicated to the archaeology, dissemination, and collection of historical knowledge about the region.


Located at the site of Denmark’s largest Refugee camp from World War II, BIG has adapted and extended one of the camp’s few remaining structures – a hospital building – into a 1,600 m2 museum.


FLUGT gives a voice and a face to refugees worldwide and captures the universal challenges, emotions, spirit, and stories shared by displaced humans.

With approximately 35,000 World War II refugees staying at the Oksbøl refugee camp, the camp became the fifth-largest city of Denmark at the time. The camp’s hospital is one of the few remaining structures.

From outside, the abstract volume welcomes visitors into what appears to be a closed entry hall. Upon entering, a floor-to-ceiling curved glass wall reveals a view of a sheltered green courtyard and the forest, where the refugee camp used to be. The courtyard lets light flow into the entry hall that functions as a lobby or a temporary exhibition space for guests to experience before continuing their journey into one of the museum wings.

"From the very beginning of the design process, it was vital for us and our client, Vardemuseerne to preserve the two hospital buildings. The buildings are some of the last remaining physical manifestations of the former refugee camp, and not only is their preservation invaluable for future generations to understand the past and the present, the buildings also directly informed our design of the extension by means of their unique elongated form, structure and materiality. FLUGT is a great example of how adaptive reuse can result in sustainable, functional buildings that preserve our shared history while standing out architecturally."

Frederik Lyng — Associate & Project Leader, BIG

The courtyard creates a peaceful sensory experience both inside and outside the museum. A small mirror pool in the heart of the courtyard reflects the sky above it. Around the basin, heath planting known from the region emphasizes the identity of the area. 

The exhibition area in the north wing contains gallery spaces organized according to the original flow/circulation in the hospital. While most of the hospital room walls were torn down, some of the inside walls are kept intact and stabilized by three cross sections, creating larger exhibition spaces.


The south wing features a flexible conference room, smaller exhibition spaces, café. The back-of-house functions with the same character and materiality as in the north wing: white walls and intersections covered in white painted wood boards oriented according to the angle ceiling line, as well as yellow bricks across the entire museum floor, connecting past and present structures.

"The Refugee Museum of Denmark explores an important part of our history and a theme that is more relevant than ever, with millions of refugees currently displaced from their homes. We have designed an architectural framework that connects the past with the present - with a new building directly shaped by its relationship to the historic hospital buildings of the WWII refugee camp. 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. The project is a continuation of our collaboration on Tirpitz Museum with Vardemuseerne and Claus Kjeld Jensen whose uncompromised design vision once again inspired our design for FLUGT."

Bjarke Ingels — Founder & Creative Director, BIG

In addition to preserving and reusing the hospital buildings for historical value, extending the lifespan of the existing structures supports BIG’s mission of reducing waste, conserving resources, and creating a smaller carbon footprint as it relates to materials manufacturing and transport.

Bjarke Ingels Finn Nørkjær David Zahle Ole Elkjær-Larsen Marius Tromholt-Richter Anders Holden Deleuran Andy Coward Barbora Hrmova Danyu Zeng Eddie Can Frederik Lyng Frederik Skou Jensen Hanne Halvorsen Jonathan Udemezue Katrine Sandstrøm Kim Lauer Kristian Mousten Laura Wätte Lone Fenger Albrechtsen Lukas Molter Mads Primdahl Rokkjær Michael James Kepke Nanna Gyldholm Møller Nikolaos Romanos Tsokas Oliver Siekierka Peter Høgenhaven Richard Howis Sascha Leth Rasmussen Sofiia Rokhmaniko Thor Larsen-Lechuga Tomas Karl Ramstrand Tore Banke Tristan Harvey Ulla Hornsyld Ákos Márk Horváth Anne Søby Nielsen Høgni Laksafoss Cheng-Huang Lin Gabrielė Ubarevičiūtė Giulia Frittoli Toni Mateu Muhammad Mansoor Awais Arthur Martinevski


Danish Building of the Year Awards 2022

Luigi Micheletti Award 2023


Tinker Imagineers
Gade & Mortensen Akustik
HB Trapper
BIG Landscape
BIG Ideas