Amaryllis Hus

The annual Building Awards in Copenhagen were established in 1902 but it was only last year that citizens were asked to vote for a public award for one of the buildings on the list of finalists.

Last year the building selected for that first public award was Axeltorv / Axel Towers by Lundgaard & Tranberg Arkitekter.

The winner this year is interesting. From a diverse list of unusual and quite adventurous building projects around the city, the public selected an apartment with a high-rise tower out of the city, just under 5 kilometres from city hall, out to the south west beyond Vestre Kirkegård … the western cemetery.

This is Amaryllis Hus on Paradisæblevej - designed by Mangor & Nagel and part of a major redevelopment of Grønttorvet - the old wholesale vegetable market - a short walk from Ny Ellebjerg station.

It is a long single block - in terms of the foot print - but with four different heights along that length so with a tower with 15 floors at the east end against a section that has four floors then stepping up to six and then back down to 5 floors at the west end. The building is clad in brick but the impact of the tower is reduced by having a copper alloy cladding to the upper levels and the lower roofs have green houses and common open areas for residents that make the silhouette more interesting. 

To the north is a large public square with car parking below and across the south side of the building a more urban space, wedge shaped, well-paved and planted.

What makes the building so good is the restrained and subtle use of brick facing from Egernsund Tegl along with Corten used for the balconies. The brickwork is also used to reflect, at least in part, the structure underneath with raised bands of brick at each floor level and vertical raised brick 'pilasters' forming a regular system of bays across the façade that frame the panels of brick.

 
 

on the north side of the lower apartments there are window boxes rather than balconies
some windows on the tower are set back which increases the effect of shadow

There is also a clever use of the mortar joints to emphasise the different sections and to give a good texture to the brickwork while retaining a sense of consistent and restrained colour … to use an often misused phrase this is tasteful. The main framework of brickwork has pale flush pointing, while the panels below windows have dark pointing and the large panels have recessed, or sometimes called raked, pointing, giving the larger areas of brickwork a stronger texture.

Too many of these new developments take what is a fairly standard arrangement of apartments with a sensible and practical concrete substructure and then make it individual or quirky or distinct or, worse, fashionable, by pulling forward an odd brick here or there or choosing brick colours that really were not meant to go together or by scattering windows across the façade like people strew cushions across a sofa.

In their publicity, Mangor & Nagel explain that their approach is to build on the best traditions of Danish architecture and that is clear here and even more so in other recent projects where it is possible to see sensible and sensitive interpretations of roof forms or arrangements of balconies or patterns of fenestration found in good Danish houses and apartment buildings from the 1950s and 1960s.

 Mangor & Nagel

 
 

 

note:

The choice of Amaryllis Hus in a public vote is interesting for several reasons - unless of course all the current occupants simply ran a well-organised campaign of lobbying - because this area of development, which when finished will have some 2,200 new homes, is generally overshadowed in the architectural press by the more obvious and more often written about developments around the inner harbour and at Ørestad and Nordhavn.

Hopefully, the choice indicates that citizens are becoming more critical of some of the most recent housing developments and are here registering a preference for a more traditional or, at least, less severe treatment of the exterior.

Grøntorvet is alongside the suburban railway lines in an area of industrial development from the late 20th century with out-of-town DIY stores, fairly busy main roads, a football ground and suburban houses and some low, three-storey apartment, buildings. But this new development is deliberately of inner-city scale and height of development where just twenty or thirty years ago, this far out from the centre, any development would, almost certainly, have been more suburban.

Of course, this partly reflects the problem that inner city land is no longer available or is much more expensive to develop because of land costs but also the development around Ny Ellerbjerg makes sense when you understand that when the south line of the metro - that will run out to the south harbour - is completed around 2023 it will continue out and swing north up to Ny Ellerbjerg where it will terminate to form an important new transport interchange with the suburban railway system. Then, the station will be comparable to Østerport, by then a major interchange between the suburban lines and the metro at the north-east part of the city, and comparable to the interchange at Flintholm at the end of the existing metro line. Is Valby the new Amager?

 

Dorotheavej apartments by BIG

 

This new apartment building on Dorotheavej - affordable housing designed by Bjarke Ingels Group - has just been nominated for the Bygningspræmiering - the annual city architectural award.

Out to the north-west of the city centre, just over 4 kilometres from city hall, this is an interesting area just below Bispebjerg and Nordvest cemetery, with a mixture of older apartment buildings and new apartment developments but also older industrial buildings on either side of a main road and, to the west, just beyond this site, low suburban housing.

The main road, Frederiksborgvej runs north - climbing up the long slope up to Bispebjerg - and Dorotheavej is on the west side, itself rising up a slope across the hill, with the new apartment building just in from the main road and on a very wide site with a long frontage to the street that faces south.

The form of the block is a long, gentle and sinuous curve back away from the street towards the centre but hard against the pavement at each end with the area in front planted with grass and trees. There is a high and wide archway through to the back of the building at the point where that curve is furthest back from the street.

The apartments have the typical through form - typical for Copenhagen - so here with a series of seven separate entrances along the façade and each giving access to a staircase with an apartment on each side at each level those apartments are relatively narrow but deep and run through from front to back of the block.*

There are 66 apartments on five floors although at the west end, furthest from the main road, the block steps rapidly down to a single storey to form a transition to the smaller scale of buildings in the next part of the street.

The design of the street frontage has a clear and neat articulation with wood on the façade creating the impression of a regular set of large wooden boxes stacked up corner to corner with the spaces between glazed but set back to form balconies. Unlike the 8-House in Ørestad - also by Ingels - this gives vertical and horizontal lines across the front a rational coherence … my main criticism of the earlier apartment building in Ørestad is that with the underlying arrangement of apartments along, in effect, a ramp that spirals up the building, then vertical and horizontal lines get chopped up and broken … it's not by a huge amount but enough to make the façade there look and feel restless or uneasy.

 

At Dorotheavej, the back of the building has windows that look across a large open area of grass and services, including car parking and the square division of the front elevation is repeated but more simply expressed with very shallow stepping backwards and forwards of the elements making it look more like a checkerboard in shallow relief. That might sound like damning with feint praise but actually it makes the façade look honest and straightforward but still expresses the internal arrangement and internal divisions but avoids the grimly stark, cliff-like backs of most modern blocks. In too many buildings you find that money and thought has been spent on the front but both run out by the time you get to the back but here, at Dorotheavej, it is actually a pleasant and elegant elevation and the gentle curve, determined by the footprint, even more than on the front, reduces and softens the impact of what is a very large block.

This complex curve also means an interesting dilemma or an interesting challenge for the inside.

If the front looks like a set of regular boxes repeated along the building, the curves means that cross walls are set at angles and there is a huge variety of arrangements in the individual, wedge-shaped apartments. There was a prospectus on line - issued for potential tenants - and the choice of internal arrangements of the apartments was bewildering - so rather like the different plans within the VM Houses by Ingels and JDS from 2005. 

At Dortheavej there are generous ceiling heights and, as an interesting consequence of the staggered-box design, there is a difference of floor level between the main box and the recess on either side so there can be interesting steps within each apartment and several of the apartments have an internal staircase with bedrooms on a separate level. Sizes of apartment vary from 65 square metres through to 115 square metres with most having one or two bedrooms although there are studio apartments and some of the larger apartments have a small study that could be used as a third bedroom. A standard trick here is to use interlocking L- shapes for adjoining apartments reached from different staircases so both have a large room running across the full width and then one has a front-facing room and the other a back facing room with internal bathrooms in the area between.

This interlocking of L shapes is found in the plans of apartment buildings in the city from the 1920s and 1930s and the large central archway is, of course, an echo of the archway through at Hostrups Have from 1936. That's not saying that Ingels here is being derivative … he is simply showing how well he knows and how well he understands the history and the conventions of housing in the city and is playing games with successful forms and styles for the building type to come up with clever and good variations on a theme. The building would certainly more than justify that Award if they do win.

 


note:

 * this arrangement means that apartments run back the full depth of the block with windows to the front and to the back and there is no connection between one vertical set of apartments and the next except outside at street level. An alternative arrangement is to have a main entrance and then access from a central corridor or to have external galleries or long public balconies at each level with the front doors accessed from there but both alternatives usually mean a compromise with some apartments with windows on just one side of the building or, with gallery access, some compromise in privacy as people walk past to get to their own door.

 

Fælledparken - the entrance from Trianglen

Entrance Faelled Park.jpeg
 

At the corner of Blegdamsvej and Øster Allé is a large area of gravel that is triangular in shape — the site of a major new metro station - and set back, beyond the triangle, is the entrance to Fælledparken.

Established in 1908, the main feature here, on the central axis of the entrance, is a memorial … a large figure group in bronze raised on a high stone base that was installed in 1930 to commemorate the return to Denmark, in an international settlements following the First World War, of land in South Jutland that had been lost to Germany in a war of 1864.

Lettering on the stone base reads:

TIL MINDE OM SONDERJYLLANDS GENFORENING MED MODERLANDET 1920

In memory of South Jutand's reunification with mother country 1920

The main figure is a woman who is looking down at an adolescent girl who holds or, rather, she clings to her side, looking up but not at the woman so up and away into the distance at the sky or to the heavens. It is a powerful depiction of a mother embracing or drawing in a child for their protection.

The woman is wearing a loose, finely- pleated costume, that is clearly classical in style, with an outer garment or stola that she is lifting to cover the girl who is naked … nakedness, at least here, implying both innocence and vulnerability.

The sculptor was Axel Poulsen who nearly twenty years later repeated the image of mother and child - a woman holding a dead youth slumped across her lap - for the incredibly powerful stone sculpture for the Mindelund Park in Copenhagen that is a memorial garden for the dead of the Second World War.

On either side of the reunification monument, there are elaborate stone drinking-water fountains.

Again the style is taken from classical architecture. For each there is a tall stone podium that is square in plan with a moulded base and cap and on the top are giant open bronze shells that are, presumably, a symbol of wisdom.

The front of these drinking fountains have very bold architectural treatment with squat but finely-fluted applied half column broken by a bold square block across the lower part in a form usually called rustication but here on a giant scale, and those blocks hold a fine bronze shell that drops water down into a round stone basin at the base.

Both drinking fountains are set at an angle, facing inwards towards the apex of the triangle and they frame the two paths on either side of the memorial that lead into the park, There are low retaining walls curving out to the buildings on either side to create a symmetrical arrangement that closes the open public space of the triangle and marks the transition to the open space and trees of the park beyond.

Around the curve behind the monument are nine lights  - low or rather not tall and each with a bronze stanchion and a simple pearl-like globe light.

There is a strong underlying geometry to the design that is not immediately obvious when you are walking through the space, in part because it is on such a large scale, but it gives the entrancea rational and clever underlying structure that creates a clear order to the space and to the procession from the urban space of Trianglen through to the open space of the grass area of the park. This should be read as if it is movement through a series of spaces, comparable to moving through a series of rooms and certainly not like moving through a natural landscape.

Also, the design shows how an architect or designer can pull together existing angles of roads and buildings - determined by topography or street alignments - and can direct the way in which people will move through the spaces but the plan also creates interesting and dynamic diagonal views that you would not get with a simple progress along a straight axis.

The statue and its plinth are set in a circle of cobbles but that is set within a larger but less obvious circle of gravel that is itself framed by a border of cobbles. That larger circles overlaps a large stadion on the axis that is set out with a gravel path beyond but the overlap is masked by a low hedge following the back curve of the circle of the statue.

A stadion is simply a long rectangle with semi circles across each end so there are long straight sides and curved ends so not an oval. The form is found most obviously as the shape of a running track so here it is a reference to the use of the public space of the park for sport. Seen from above, the statue is at the centre of its circle but also on the long axis of the stadion and actually sits across the path - so if you run around the stadion, as if it was a running track, then you have to divert around the statue.

At the far end of the stadion, towards the open park, the gravel path expands out into a curve that cuts into the main shape of the stadion. It mirrors the entrance end, but without the full circle of the setting of the statue, and has a set of curved stone benches where you can sit and look out across the park.

 

It is fascinating to see how a city or a country has seen itself at various points in history by looking at how a style of architecture is used to establish or reflect or reinforce a common sense of self identity.

Following the war of 1864, and the loss of much of Jylland - the south part of Jutland that was annexed by Germany - Denmark spent the last decades of the 19th century reassessing and then rebuilding and then moving forward.

Initially the style adopted for much of the new architecture at the end of the 19th century was inspired by the rebuilding of Paris in the period of Hausmann after the revolution of 1848 - so many of the new apartment buildings from that period in Copenhagen imitate pale stone ashlar, have large sash windows, mansard roofs and ornate wrought-iron balconies.

By 1900, and with the growing prosperity of the city based on trade, many of the new office building along Hans Christian Boulevard and even the new city hall itself looked to that other great trading nation of city states for inspiration so to Italy and to Florence and Sienna and to banks and civic buildings in those cities as a source of architectural forms and decorative motifs.

As the prosperity and success of the Copenhagen renaissance became more tangible, there was a growing sense of pride in architecture and achievements that were more specifically Danish or Scandinavian so architects and sculptors looked for inspiration to the buildings of Christian IV in the first half of the 17th century so towers and turrets and gables in the style of Frederiksborg or Kronborg, but dating from around 1900, can be seen all over the city.

But the entrance to the park and many of the new public buildings around the park are different in style again. Here, through the 1920s and 1930s, the inspiration is classical architecture - not Renaissance Italy but ancient Greece and Rome - and of course that seems appropriate for buildings like a swimming pool and the stadium so it appears that there was a new worship of fitness and the male body - or at least a sanitised view of what Hellenic sport was all about - and with it came a need to express or imply heroism and nationalism … and, in terms of style, a different form of nationalism to the power and wealth shown by the buildings of Børsen - the Royal Exchange - or Rosenborg or Kronborg.

This gets perilously close to the architecture of nationalism of the right in Italy or Germany in the 1920s and 1930s but maybe that slight uneasiness we can feel, when we see architecture like this, comes because we are looking back but of course, these architects could only look for styles of architecture that they felt were appropriate without our awareness of the dark consequences of some forms of nationalism some ten or twenty years later. The monument to the motherland at the entrance to Fælled Park - to mark the return of South Jutland to Denmark - implies a quiet national pride … it's certainly not bombastic, not vainglorious and not triumphalist because that's not the Danish way.

 

 

note:

Several architects produced designs for this entrance after the park was established.

Kaj Gottlob designed two large, U-shaped buildings on either side that were to be set at an angle determined by each of the main roads (so before the post office was built) with open courtyards to the back and with forward-facing facades and between them a tall and elaborate loggia with pairs of columns, one behind the other, on the side towards the triangle and matching pairs on the side towards the park and people entering the park would have walked across - not along - the loggia.

In 1917 Vilhelm Lauritzen designed a similar pair of large buildings to flank the entrance but he designed between them an arcade with five giant arches rather like a Roman viaduct.

In complete contrast, in 1918, Peder Pedersen designed a low geometric fence across the back of the triangle with a pair of pavilions on either side of the entrance, gate lodges between the triangle and the park so a rather rustic version of the fence and pavilions around the King's Garden in the city. The drawing by Pedersen in the national archive is also interesting because his plan shows the tram tracks and the triangle in front of the entrance had a large tram stop on the Øster Allé side and a turning circle for the trams in part across the triangle.

Kids' City Christianshavn

 
 
 

the front of the school to Prinsessegade - the yellow box-girder structure is courts for sports over the main entrance and the glass roof structure is a greenhouse over the restaurant

 

the Town Hall of Kids' City from the far side of the canal

The first stages of Kids’ City - buildings along Princessegade in Christianshavn in Copenhagen - have opened although there is still construction work on part of the site and work on hard landscaping and planting is ongoing but already it is clear that the design of this new school will be innovative and inspiring.  

When finished there will be up to 750 children here, ranging in age from babies in the pre-school area through to young adults of 17 or 18 in their last years of schooling so Kids’ City will be the largest ‘pre school and youth club’ in Denmark. 

That presented COBE, the architects, with distinct challenges. On a relatively tight plot of around 11,000 square metres, the buildings have to be extensive but have to allow for as much space as possible outside for sport and play and other activities. As a single, unified block it could have been over bearing and daunting for small children but this school also has to provide an appropriate setting and the right facilities for such a broad range of age groups that it could never be a place where a one-class-room-fits-all approach was possible.

The solution has been to link together a number of simple blocks - most of two stories and some with gabled roofs and some set at angles - to create groups and small courtyards and to treat the site as a small city with different neighbourhoods and public spaces. The separate parts are even described as if they are the distinct and recognisable elements of a diverse but well-established community so rather than an assembly hall or school hall there is a Town Hall; rather than a dining hall or canteen there is a restaurant, and there will be a stadium and a library and a museum and even a fire station and a factory.

Play and fun are an incredibly important part of the whole scheme so there will be a beach along a canal where there will be canoes and places to have a bonfire "to roast marsh-mallows." 

 
 

Conservatives will harrumph that this is liberalism gone berserk - school desks in rows and every class room the same never did them any harm - but surely rigid uniformity in the unrealistic and almost surreal form of standard and old-fashioned class rooms infantilises children. That sounds like tautology but actually formal classrooms separate out and segregate children from the realities of the world just outside the school fence and there is harm to be done by compartmentalising education so it is seen as an isolated stage and one that is somehow separate and very different to future life as an adult.

Kid's City has been designed to reflect the social and architectural diversity of the larger city around the school.

In a safe and sensible way it will introduce children to how the community around them actually works - or perhaps doesn't work - and it introduces children to good architecture by helping them to understand its importance in their wider urban environment, outside the school gate. Cities are made up of separate buildings that have their own functions and traditions and identity and buildings in the wider built environment have a vocabulary and a grammar so it helps if people know how to read and understand buildings and the settlements in which they exist.

As with other schools and the public libraries that I have seen in the city, there is here a consistent use of thought-through design with good furniture and fittings and good, carefully-considered, architecture that helps kids appreciate good design. That is appreciate in both senses … to understand and to like. They become architecturally literate, almost by osmosis, because good design is all around them, and they see it realistically - not as precious or special but just part of their everyday life - so the good and, I suppose, the bad thing is that they can but they should take good design for granted.

I have told this story on this site before but it is worth repeating here. A year or so ago I was talking to someone from Paustian design store and he confessed that when he first left Munkegårds School in Copenhagen and met people from other places, who had gone to other schools, he was taken aback - even slightly shocked - as he had always just assumed that everybody went to a school with furniture designed by Arne Jacobsen.

Munkegårds and Kids' City could hardly be more different in plan - after all they are separated by 60 years - but, in both schools, new buildings were commissioned that are the best designs available and see that as one part but an essential part of the education that is being provided.

The location of Kids' City is crucial to the character and form of the final scheme. Across the front of the plot is a relatively busy road - Prinsessegade - with large older apartment buildings opposite. These are typical of working-class housing in the city and are an important part of the history of Christanshavn - an area on the other side of the harbour to the historic and posh core of the city - the city of merchants and royalty and politicians - and the school is close to the historic buildings of the former docks and naval shipyards. Until the late 20th century the naval yards and docks were the main place for employment for the people who lived in this district.

Along the side of the school is Refshalevej - a quieter street that runs down away from Princessegade and then turns north as a lane along the old outer defences of the city where there is a series of bastions and redoubts built in the 17th century that originally looked across water towards what was then the distinct flat farmland and grassland for grazing on the island of Amager. 

On the opposite side of the street from Kids' City is the north part of the world-famous free community of Christiania and again the new school reflects that because, presumably, some of the children inthe school will be drawn from there and they will have a strong sense of identity and, I guess, less empathy for unnecessary formality or restrictions.

 
 
 
 

There are brilliant features of the scheme that can only have been achieved through a close co-ordination between the architects and the educational team for the school so, for instance, the 'restaurant' takes the form of a large conservatory or green house and that is because that is exactly what it is. The children will grow food in a glass house immediately above the restaurant so they have a direct and hands-on understanding of where their food comes from. There will be a wall outside where kids can write the names of their first 'loves' although I had to smile because even the Danes end up by using sexist stereotypes … as it has been described as a wall where girls can write up the names of their first boyfriends. Don’t boys write up names?

Our Urban Living Room - the catalogue of the exhibition of the work of COBE that is on now at the Danish Architecture Centre - explains that the layout of the school site is, in part, inspired by the Tivoli Gardens because that is "a place where all kids want to go." But actually that source of inspiration could not be more appropriate … however much those conservatives might harrumph again.

Education succeeds when it engages and intrigues and inspires but then that is exactly what Tivoli was always meant to do. Since the middle of the 19th century, it has been a place where the citizens of Copenhagen have gone to relax and be entertained but it also has a world-class concert hall - I have been to the fairground to hear the Berlin Philharmonic play there - and the first building of the Danish Design Museum was on the corner of the Tivoli Garden - so ordinary people then could see art and design from Japan, recently added to the collection, or admire the craftsmanship of the best Danish furniture - and the trade hall - where the latest tractors or engines produced in Denmark could be admired by anyone or everyone - was across the north side of Tivoli and that is still the site of DI - the association of Danish industry. Absolutely nothing wrong with a bit of fun and awe and learning going hand in hand.

 
 
 

The plot for Kid's City is not square but a large triangle as the back boundary is formed by a canal cutting across. On the other side of that canal is an important open area of ground used for sports and a recently-completed sports hall - Hal C designed by Christensen & Co.

The canal is an important feature of this area for two rather different reasons. First, it is evidence for the topographical development of this part of the city over four centuries. A large area of open sea - between the old city and the island of Amager - was enclosed by the construction of the outer defences that provided sheltered and defended moorings for the fleet but then slowly the inner area, the water inside the defences, was back filled to provide new ground for more and more naval buildings and for housing and so on although large areas of moorings were left open and lengths of canal, like the section here, were left to be used for moving around goods and presumably the canals also formed good and secure barriers between different areas on separate islands. Surely it is important for kids to understand this as part of their local heritage.

Also interesting, but in terms of modern life in the city, is that, just as with good design, children in Copenhagen take for granted the water and swimming and being on the water in boats or canoes so schools do have a role to encourage this but do it safely. That's not by fencing off water or putting up warning signs but by making sure kids are confident and happy around and on the water.

The triangular area is divided into three parts where buildings and spaces vary in scale and are arranged in different ways that are appropriate for each of the main groups of kids in that wide range of ages taught here. Babies and younger children through to six-years old are in the group of buildings at the angle of the roads with a separate area of the school for children from 7 to 13 at the south-east or back angle of the site and an area for older kids from 14 to 18 to the left of the main gate with access to separate bike sheds, as they are more likely to come to school independently. This part of the school is next to the steps up to a large sports deck above the gateway.

As the children move up through the school there should be less stress about each change as the idea is that, with the single site, there will be a well-developed sense of familiarity and above all a strong sense of community in the school as a whole. Perhaps not so much a city as the scale and community of a village - safe rather than daunting - and with a very strong sense of locality.

Or is that comparison with a village too rural - too simple?

For Copenhagen I guess it really has to be a city within the city.

COBE

the part of the school for the older kids to the north of the gate

sliding metal shutters can be used to provide privacy or opened to give views right through the block

 
 

view out from within the school with the staircase up to the sports area over the gate and the 'town hall' just visible to the right. Many schools, as here, have miniature road layouts with signs and road markings where children are taught how to use public roads safely.

 

the central activity area with the red drum of the fire station ... landscape work to be completed

the restaurant set back from the pavement to create an area where parents can meet and talk while they wait to collect kids. Note the timber cladding of the building on the right is continued up to enclose and screen a roof area ... with a relatively tight plot open space on the ground, lost under a building, can be reclaimed on a flat roof above.

the mixture of flat and pitched roofs above what appear to be small, self-contained volumes gives visual interest but also establish a human scale that would be lost if the same overall accommodation was in a single block covered by a single roof

the simple blocks that are linked together to form the different parts of the school have different cladding and different colours ... here the vertical timber cladding and the treatment of the window is reminiscent of the design of Forfatterhuset - also by COBE - but here vertical strips of timber rather than ceramic

 
 

The model of the school that was shown as part of the exhibition at the Danish Architecture Centre reveals some parts of the design of the buildings that is not easy to appreciate at ground level. Each of the three areas - the separate areas for the different age groups - has one key central part that is set at an angle to the other blocks in the group ... so for the part of the school for the youngest children that is the restaurant and the glass house above. This creates some interesting wedge-shaped spaces that, for instance on the south side of the restaurant is an internal corridor.

 

Looking down on the model you can see that what appear from street level in the real building to be relatively tall simple blocks are in fact a single-storey room with the outer walls continued up to form a high parapet around an open play or teaching area on the first floor. In some blocks where the facade is vertical timbers then these continue up as open fencing to the roof area so the upper space is more obvious.

From above it is also clear that what appear to be two separate adjoining blocks with different wall treatment to the outside are actually a single rectangular space internally with no structural cross wall between the two parts ... so not strictly 'honest' with detail expressing form ... but perfectly understandable in trying to simplify an extremely complicated arrangement inside with what has to be a rational overall scheme for the exterior. Roof drainage must have been a design challenge.

The large block with a black roof, set at an angle at the centre, is the City Hall. It is interesting to see this has a glazed or visually open ground floor. We tend to associate town halls or city halls now with administration and lots of offices but many were traditionally simple meeting halls ... hence the generic name ... and in some, like the old City Hall in Copenhagen, in Gammeltorv, the hall was set above an open arcade that was used for events and markets.

 

the buildings for the middle age group where building work has just started

the part of the school for older kids has the raised courts for sport (bottom left) and the City Hall to the right

 
 
 

If there is a criticism, or perhaps better simply a concern, it is that the realities of the economy means that possibly the construction work is not as robust as in new school buildings of ten or twenty years ago so there is a short-term feel to some of the facing material and the buildings are not so much solid construction as wood frames plus the most recent in the development of insulation.

 
 

Forfatterhuset Kindergarten, Copenhagen

 

Forfatterhuset Kindergarten (The Writers’ House) opened in 2014 although work continues on the landscape of the street immediately around the school. It was designed by the architectural practice COBE and is on the north side of De Gamles By (City of the Old). The new buildings are in a square that is open on the north-east side to Sjællandsgade. Buildings around the school date mainly from about 1900 and were originally built for a hospital for the elderly.

The new nursery school is in a striking and novel form but picks up the deep red brick colour of the earlier buildings. The square-section vertical bars or slats are continued as a band that forms a high fence for the large play area at the south west end of the site. Windows and doors have a metal square-section architrave in deep red that projects forward of the system of the wall face. 

The plan is a series of interlinked pavilions with rounded corners and with flat roofs but with roof gardens to make best use of the site. Buildings and fencing wrap around mature trees and the building has the character of a large tree house.

 

Inside, white railings continue the theme of vertical lines, looking rather like bamboo, running the full height of hallways and enclosing the staircases and landings - presumably for safety. The main building actually has three floors around a full height atrium and staircase and the main entrance is into that taller block with a narrow entrance court that almost feels as if it has been created by someone pushing hard at the fence to move it inwards.

 

COBE