Experiencing Contrasts at Kalø Castle: A study of an architectural intervention

Liv Lindtner Reese-Petersen

Studenteropgave: Speciale


Branding strategies have become essential catalysts of developmental growth in projects of architectural planning and renewal. However, it is a strategic approach to design that is more concerned about the semantic idea of an experience rather than the actual experience of a design. It remains at large unclear, if and how the intended experience translates into the experiences of the visitors. Against this background, the present thesis engages with the question of how the visitor experience of the architectural intervention in Kalø Castle correlate with the designers intended experience. In order to this, the thesis centres around visitor experiences of the stairway inside Kalø Castle in Mols Bjerge National Park, Denmark that has been designed by MAP Architects and branded by Realdania. Visitor experiences are examined through ethnographic methods of participant observations, walk-along interviews and photography, against factual interviews with key figures in the design process.
The thesis suggests to understand visitor experiences as becoming in place. Visitors are seen as situated in their environment and relating to social and material influences through movements, performances and associative acts.
Based on the empirical data, the thesis presents four movements that make up the course of the visitor experience at Kalø: Arriving, Approaching, Interacting and Viewing. The analysis brings forward that these movements makes visitors engage sensuously and cognitively with their environment, and through associative conversations they make sense of the experience they are having. In this perspective, the visitor experience is constantly becoming. Furthermore, the analysis brings forward how the premises of a gentle, minimal and removable architectural intervention put forth by Realdania and interpreted by MAP Architects, are part of a branding strategy to persuade stakeholders in the design process and ultimately guarantee completion of the project.
Subsequently, the thesis evaluates the correlation of the intended experience and the actual experience, and presents one success and one failure. Firstly, the project has successfully added an experiential value to Kalø Castle: Visitors find the experience that the stairway offers climatic. Being on the summit becomes one of the primary activities at Kalø Castle, just as intended. Secondly, visitors do not experience the architectural intervention as ‘gentle’ because this has not been communicated strongly towards them, it can only be seen on only plaque by the entrance that few people see. So this intention was deemed a failure.
However, this thesis suggests that despite of, or rather because of the scarcity of information visitors have a great experience of being in a place of cultural heritage. Considering how visitors are not served an authoritative narrative, they begin to piece together their own imaginative story, synthesised by all the impressions they have gathered on the course of the visit, and preconceptual knowledge from beyond the site of Kalø.
The thesis demonstrates that qualitative social scientific research can capture visitor experiences, and render them applicable for evaluations of developmental projects in architectural environments. Doing so, transparency of the relation between designers’ intention and the visitors’ experiences can be increased, and further the knowledge of designing for visitor experiences of cultural heritage sites.

UddannelserSpatial Design and Society, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Kandidat
Udgivelsesdato28 sep. 2017
Antal sider95
VejledereJørgen Ole Bærenholdt


  • Architectural Intervention
  • Brandscapes
  • Experience Economy
  • Kalø Castle