an addition to the Red Cross Headquarters in Copenhagen by COBE 


November 2016 - the main structure of the addition in concrete was in place and you could see how the new entrance would work but this was before the brickwork across the terrace had been laid so it was difficult to gain an overall impression


A trip out to Trianglen - to see the new Biomega shop - was the chance to have a look at the new entrance building for the Red Cross Headquarters not far away on Blegdamsvej.

Designed by the Copenhagen architectural practice COBE, models of the building were shown in the exhibition Our Urban Living Room at the Danish Architecture Centre at the end of 2016 and I had seen the work in progress several times through 2017 but this was the first time I had been to that part of the city since the work was completed.

A three-storey office building here dates from the 1950s and is on an unusual plot - very wide but quite shallow with the main road across the front but with the building set back from the pavement with open public space at the front and with the back of the building hard against the boundary of Fælledparken which is the largest and perhaps the most important public open space in the city … so there was no possibility to extend the building back.

The solution was to build a new range out across the front that fans out from the original entrance and with its highest point against the building but sloping or rather stepping down to the pavement. In a way it is like one quarter of a pyramid if it was cut down the corner angles.

This new structure leaves triangular courtyards or green areas to each side to let light into the original office windows on the existing frontage but also reconfigures these as more enclosed and private spaces with the new building shielding them from the street and the noise of passing traffic.

Rooms under the slope, with a large new foyer in the west part, are lit by full height windows at the back that look into these green areas and look towards the existing range. 

Perhaps a better way of thinking about this is not as a new addition across the front but as a scheme that retains all the original open and public space across the front but tips part of it up at an angle and slips new rooms and new facilities underneath. This idea is, of course, close to what COBE did at Israels Plads where there are triangles of steps across two angles of the square which provide elevated areas where people sit to enjoy the sun or sit to eat a snack from the nearby food halls or just sit to watch other people but here, at the Red Cross building, on a larger scale. It is hoped that at Blegdamsvej this stepped slope will become an equally popular public space.

The brick steps are broken by the entrance to the building that creates what is, in effect, a small entrance court … a device used by COBE at, for instance Forfatterhuset, to form an interim public space where people arriving and leaving can stand and talk … not actually on the public pavement but directly off it … so it's the idea of a transitional space from public to private and from outside to inside. Also, it clearly signals to someone new to the building where they should enter … so this is COBE’s modern version of a portico but more about circulation and drawing the visitor in rather than being more overtly about status.


May 2018