Sorø Municipality og Sorø Art Museum
Storgade 7, DK-4180 Sorø
Completed in 2021
Landscape and Urban Spaces
Sorø Culture Scene is a cultural square for play, experience and immersion – a place that stimulates curiosity for all ages. The square relates to two of Sorø's most important cultural institutions, and uses the cultural heritage of the old city of Sorø into a new way of thinking urban design. Historical layers, architectural styles and forms come together in a strong design that connects and unites the rich variations and contrasts found in Sorø. Playful and scenographic elements are placed around the courtyard to invite curious souls of all ages to experiment and experience the world in new playful ways.
Back in 2012, a user survey showed that among Sorø's residents there was a desire for more activities and accommodation in the city centre. Sorø is an older market town with a long characteristic main street with small farm environments. One of these courtyards is located between the two cultural institutions Sorø Art Museum and Sorø Library and local archive, located in the historic building De Unge Herrers Gård from 1625 as well as the adjacent side house. Until recently, the courtyard was a parking lot and was also only used as a passageway as one of the city's main stroke. With 150,000 annual visitors divided between the library and the art museum, it was obvious to change the courtyard's function from a transit and parking area to a lively and inviting urban courtyard.
In the beginning fundraising for the project concerned a playground and was mostly focused on playful elements placed in the courtyard. However as the project developed it became clear that the traditional way of thinking playground was to one dimensional for this historic place, and on behalf of the material created by STED it was decided to look into extra funding to create a unique, playful and multifunctional space that respects cultural heritage and creates awareness and curiosity towards the surrounding world.
Local forestry and paving producers became part of the projects funding together with The Danish Foundation for Culture and Sports Facilities and so the project grew from initial thoughts about a playground into a sensory and inviting new cultural courtyard for all ages, genders and beliefs.
The project shows how to think of playgrounds and urban spaces in a new way, creating a design that integrates play, cultural heritage, storytelling, world view, science and outlook on life and the playful elements The curiosities, which are placed around the courtyard, invite curious souls of all ages to experiment and experience the world in new ways. We worked to create unique references to Sorø as a place. Sorø's cultural heritage with Sorø Academy as the center contains clear references to science and discovery, and we were inspired to work with these themes. How could we create a space that aroused visitors' curiosity and wonder?
The Curiosities include e.g. a mirror wall, a story well and an observatory vault, where you can experience the starry sky in daylight. In addition, there is also a camera obscura, with references back to Aristotle creates optical effects that reflect the surroundings onto a drawing board. With these elements, the square is lifted from a living space to an activity space that gives the opportunity to interact and challenge all of our senses. The curiosities are specially created for this space - on the border between play and science and art. They mime both instruments from science and play, and that is new thinking. We believe that a play should not be one predefined thing, it's about being interactive with the space you're in. It also has to be cool for adults to join, it must also surprise everyone who joins. The curiosities create wonder and opens questions about perceptions of things and places, and just as literature and art do, the curiosities must help to challenge visitors' perception of the world and expand their horizons.
All elements that make up Sorø's cultural square are natural materials. Oak is the thing throughout choice of materials that is inspired by the classic half-timbered buildings in Sorø's historic town centre, and thus contains clear references to Sorø's architectural heritage. Oak is a Danish wood and local material that we know. The Curosities are made from copper shaped by local Danish blacksmiths. Copper is 100% resuable and has a long lasting effect that makes the choice sustainable.
The natural materials also have the advantage that they age beautifully. Both copper, brass and oak are all materials, that will change over time and become an integral part of Sorø. And they tie past, present and future together.