Groundbreaking Constructions


Or to give the exhibition its full title:

Groundbreaking Constructions - 100 Danish Breakthroughs that Changed the World.

This is an important exhibition at the Danish Architecture Centre in Copenhagen that initially appears to be simple - presenting 100 constructions under a catchy newspaper-style headline title - but in fact sets out a lot of background material and explains complex and challenging problems that had to be resolved and, in many cases, discusses ideas about planning decisions and the politics behind the design of these major projects. 

The first section of the exhibition looks in detail at eight major building or engineering projects with photographs, films and some striking models that illustrate complex partnerships between architects and engineers working together with a client to produce ground-breaking constructions.

  • The Great Belt Bridge by Dissing + Weitling with the engineers COWI completed in 1998.

  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Riyadh by Henning Larsen Architects from 1994

  • The Trans Iranian Railway begun in 1931 by Kampsax

  • The Sydney Opera House by Jørn Utzon

  • The Grand Arch in Paris by Johann Otto von Spreckelsen and the engineer Erik Reitzel

  • Amager Resource Centre in Copenhagen by BIG

  • Great Gabbard Windfarm

  • The International Criminal Court in the Hague by Schmidt Hammer Lassen



Here there are different levels of information with videos, large images and the main panels of text but each section also has a desk or table top spread with drawings, photographs and books and in each area there is a chair so you are encouraged to spend time looking in more detail. Light levels are low and each section is separate and set in it’s own tight space. So, with no sense of fixed progress along a carefully controlled sequence … as you might do in a traditional art gallery … the arrangement is closer to the way we can use the internet to move through and explore information quickly but click down to more complex or more detailed information where we want or need to find out more.

The second room of the exhibition is a more open and brighter space and here ground-breaking constructions are divided into five groups, each represented by a main project that is shown as a film on the upper part of the wall and below, spread along a sloping display shelf running round the space, there are further examples as double-sided cards with a photograph and on the flip side basic information and an assessment of what makes that project innovative or particularly significant. This is primarily a catalogue but is a good way to show variations on a theme.

Those five main themes are:

  • Industry represented by Fiberline Composites A/S

  • Infrastructure with Cykelslanger - the Bicycle Snake - in Copenhagen

  • Housing represented by Søndergård Park

  • Public Projects represented by DOKK 1 in Aarhus Harbour by Schmidt Hammer Lassen

  • Cultural Projects represented by the new Moesgaard Museum by Henning Larsen Architects


For children, but also good for adults if you are a bit uncertain about engineering terms, there is an area where common construction principles are explained. There are two large arches with separate wedge-shaped blocks of covered foam to demonstrate how, even when there is no mortar, an arch is completed and held together by the final element, the key block, at the top. Tension and compression in structures are explained and there are illustrations of post and lintel engineering and drawings showing the way a Da-Vinci Bridge is formed. Wood blocks and splints and straws with link elements are provided by a work table where you can try to make your own bridges and arches and domes. There is even a tank of soapy liquid and a wire frame forming a cube to show the structural principle of bubbles that inspired the form of that Great Arch in Paris.

read the long review

The exhibition continues at the Danish Architecture Centre in Copenhagen until 3 January