Løsninger - exhibition of work by graduates from the School of Architecture, Design and Conservation



There are just a few more days to see the work of the 232 architects and designers who graduated this summer from the schools of architecture and design at Det Kongelige Danske Kunstakademis Skoler for Arkitektur, Design og Konservering - KADK or the Danish Royal Academy of Architecture, Design and Conservation.


the exhibition is open every day to the 19 August 2018
Udstillingen og Festsalen
Danneskiold-Samsøes Allé 51-53

Bien at Trianglen

Trianglen Bien.jpg


This is one of the more extraordinary buildings in Copenhagen. 

It is at the east end of Trianglen on the traffic island and was a tram car stop with a kiosk; a room for a traffic controller and public toilets and with benches not only in the recessed spaces on the east and west sides but also around the outside where people could sit if they had to wait for trams at this busy interchange.

The architect was PV Jensen-Klint and it was commissioned in 1904 by the Østerbro Grundejerforening or Landowners Association to replace a wooden hut on the same site. A number of designs were presented before a final design was approved and the building was completed in 1907.

It has a sort of exuberance and delight in playing with variations of shape and form that is associated with Art Nouveau architecture but here the columns on each side with strong entasis - the bowing out in the middle - and the almost Baroque elements with curved shaped heads to windows and doors picked up in the line of glazing bars makes it more robust and strongly architectural than buildings you would find from the same period in Paris or Brussels.

The oval shape of the building and its copper roof meant that it was soon given the nickname of the Super Terrin or Terrinen - it looked like a large soup dish with a lid with the heraldic animals on the top like a knob or handle although they are actually flues for the stoves. The building is also known as Bien or The Bee from the name of the kiosk here at one stage.



Løsninger / Solutions 2018

29 June 2018

This evening was the official opening of the exhibition of the work of the graduates from the schools of architecture and design at Det Kongelige Danske Kunstakademis Skoler for Arkitektur, Design og Konservering - KADK or the Danish Royal Academy of Architecture, Design and Conservation


The exhibition is open every day through to the 19 August 2018

Udstillingen og Festsalen
Danneskiold-Samsøes Allé 51-53
1435 København K


shop interior by Kaare Klint for FA Thiele


background / history

Købmagergade is one of the two main shopping streets in Copenhagen and number 3, close to the intersection of those two streets, is a wide building with two separate shops running back into the property and a central doorway for access to the staircase and to the floors above the shops. The building appears to have just escaped the catastrophic fire in the city of 1728 and may date back to the first half of the 17th century - the adjoining building was damaged and had to be rebuilt. Number 3 was rebuilt between 1816 and 1834, when it was owned by a restaurateur - Jean Pierre Casadaban -  and in 1847, an extra floor was added with, presumably, a new roof and at that point the street frontage took on its present appearance.

The shops have very high ceiling heights where, as in so many of the older buildings in the centre of the city, the floors of the main level, originally six or seven steps up from street level were brought down to pavement level, cutting into the space of basement rooms that were originally half below ground and half above ground - a form of plan described as a half basement or semi basement.


In the middle of the last century, the shop in the left or south half of the building at number 3 Købmagergade was occupied by the opticians  F A Thiele. They are now in a shop further north along the same street - but in 1944 they commissioned the architect Kaare Klint to design a new shop font and new interior fittings here.

Work was delayed and did not start until 1951 when Klint was assisted by the young architect Vilhelm Wohlert, who had studied under Klint, and the shop was actually completed in 1956, some two years after Klint died.

It is a complicated space with the front part of the shop just two steps up from the pavement but the space then narrows and towards the back runs through into a back building at a higher level, eight steps up from the floor of the front space, although the ceiling level is constant.

Klint and Wohlert designed a reception and waiting area at the front and, back down the shop, there were 18 tables or desks with chairs, where patients were seen by the opticians, including tables set along a narrow balcony that returned back towards the shop front from the raised area at the back. At the very back there was a small office but with a glazed front wall.

Unlike the present arrangement, the back part of Thiele's had windows looking into a narrow back courtyard so there was natural light.


Distinctive fittings included high and narrow units of small drawers - next to the staircase in the middle of the shop - for storing the glasses but the interior also made striking use of large flush panels veneered in wood and areas of vertical and closely spaced narrow strips of wood that picked up the tight linear pattern of the ceiling, that had narrow strips running front to back, and the bolder lines of the closely-spaced rafters of the underside of the balcony.

The drawer units were along the side wall but also returned across the shop beside the staircase and taken up higher than the floor level of the space beyond and seem to have included a flower planter across the top and formed the barrier or parapet of the upper level.

These steps up to the back had open treads and the handrail had closely-spaced vertical battens so again a strong linear design. Note how the wide handrail curves at the top and bottom to level off to horizontal so it was at the right level for your hand as you approached and as you reached the last of the steps.

The interior is about clean simple lines but the planes of walls and fittings define a clever interrelationship of spaces and volumes marking not just changes in the underlying building - that the architects were given - but define different areas of the shop ... so a progression from pavement through the display space of the shop window to a counter and reception area, a waiting area and pay desk, stations for consultations, storage of stock and an office at the far end, above everything but with its glass wall, a place from which to supervise all. Perhaps one of the most elegant essays in functional architecture in the city.

The front window was again a deceptively simple but again an exceptionally sophisticated design with a wide lintel across the door to divide the very high shop window across the centre. This was deep enough to carry lighting with a series of spot lights over the window displays and narrow opaque panels for the lights over the entrance. The glass on either side was set at the front edge for the areas of window display but the entrance door was set on the back edge of this horizontal feature with narrow windows on each side to form a covered entrance lobby. At the front or outer corners the sheets of glass forming the sides of this lobby are butted up to the large plate-glass windows of the shop front without vertical frames - something we now just take for granted but then, presumably, both novel and daring.

Plain boards below the windows set the height of a solid panel in the bottom of the otherwise glazed door and the windows were large undivided sheets of glass so there is an apparent simplicity to the design but in reality a complicated and clever game with planes and lines and spaces.

The demolition of this interior has to be seen as a major loss.


a cigar shop for Hirschsprung by Kaare Klint


At the start of his career, Kaare Klint designed other interiors for commercial properties in the centre of the city but, like the shop for the optician F A Thiele designed at the end of his career, these have not survived.

In the exhibition of photographs Then & Now there was a view taken in 1968 towards the west end of Strøget - the walking street - looking west across Gammel Torv and on the far side of the square, on the north or right side of the next section of the street, was a cigar shop owned in the early 20th century by Hirschsprung.

It was not far from the court house - lower down the public space on the west side of Nytorv, the lower part of the square - and not far from City Hall so this must have been a prime location to serve all those lawyers and politicians.


The interior of the shop had mahogany counters and floors in black and white marble but with green linoleum on the floor behind the counter and there was what sounds like a strong and distinct colour scheme with the walls painted russet. Designed by Kaare Klint working with the architect Povl Baumann, it was completed in 1916 or 1917, and was given a city design award in 1918.

Klint designed furniture for the shop - with a version of the chair he designed for Dansk Kunsthandel - and ashtrays and sconces in bronze but he also designed the lettering for the signs on the black and grey facades on this prominent corner site.

Unfortunately, the contrast with the store here now could not be greater.

Surely the interior and exterior, as the work of one of the most important Danish designers of the early 20th century, could and should have been protected so that it survived. That's not a plea for anything and everything old to be kept but surely new uses can be found for historic shop interiors of a high quality without compromising financial returns. Commercial chains clearly do not want to or cannot afford to keep these interiors but the city cannot afford to loose them.


Diagonally across the square from the cigar shop is the Stelling building by Arne Jacobsen from the 1930s and there the shop interior has just been refitted and again with no reference to the important original design and, by coincidence, for the same shop chain.


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


Bygningspræmiering / Building Awards 2018

On the 7th April 1902 the city council of Copenhagen voted to make awards annually for "beautiful artistic designs for construction projects on the city's land."  

There had been some discussion with the Association of Academic Architects about creating an award that recognised the best designs for new buildings in the city but from the start the awards were also to provide guidelines or a model and an incentive for owners and clients when they commissioned work. 

It is important to understand that the council appreciated fully the importance of historic buildings in the city so the awards were, in part, to encourage the design of new buildings of an appropriate quality to stand alongside the historic buildings but they also went further to include awards for major projects for the restoration of existing buildings and to recognise improvements to the townscape or urban scape that provided the best and most appropriate setting for those buildings.

Nor did the awards just focus on major or prestigious buildings but over 115 years they have also recognised the best private houses, new apartment buildings and commercial buildings, factories and schools in Copenhagen. 

For 2018, eight buildings have been recognised with an award but, for the first time, these will all go forward for the selection of an overall winner by a public vote.

That winner will be announced at a ceremony at the City Hall on 3 May. 




Axel Towers, Axeltorv 2

Lundgaard & Tranberg Arkitekter A/S

Five circular towers, tightly grouped and interlinked, with shops and a cafe at the lower level, a new public space at an upper level between the towers, offices and a restaurant at the top overlooking the city. The nomination for an award appears to be in part for the quality of the exterior and for the new or rather the replanning of the public space running back from the street across the west side of the new buildings.


Carlsbergfondets Forkersboliger / Carlsberg Foundation Graduate Housing, Bohrsgade 7-13

Praksis Arkitekter ApS

Apartments on an important and sensitive site overlooking the JC Jacobsen Gardens. The award appears to be for the quality of the design, attempting to set a standard for the redevelopment of this area, reviously the site of the Carlsberg brewery. There is an interesting loggia across the street frontage that takes its form from covered links between and across the front of original brewery buildings and the form of the brickwork, with panels of bricks set diagonally to create a zigzag dog-tooth pattern, shows a clever and sympathetic and appropriate respect for the facade of the adjoining brick building on the garden side by Eske Kristensen that dates from the 1960s and was itself an award-winning design.



Konstabelskolen, Luftmarinegade 1


New youth housing in buildings on Margreteholm that date from 1939 - an early and important concrete post and beam construction that has been derelict for some years.




Mærsk Tårnet / Mærsk Tower, Blegdamsvej 3B

C F Møller Architects

Landscape SLA

Prominent new building for medical research - for the university Panum Institute and the Novo Nordisk Foundation Centre on the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences site. The award, in part, seems to recognise the technical aspects of the building, particularly energy saving for such a large structure; in part recognises the complex planning for such a complicated high-tech role and in part is for the landscape around the building that takes into account controls for surface water - as cloud bursts become more common, and potentially much more destructive with climate change - but also has interesting planting and a dramatic use of elevated public walkways to encourage people to enter the site or cut through.



Dehns Palæ / Dehn’s Palace, Bredgade 54

Wohlert Arkitekter A/S

An 18th-century palace - designed by JG Rosenberg and close to the royal palace and the Marble Church - has been restored for Danmarks Apotekerforening / Denmarks Pharmaceutical Association following an extensive fire in 2010. The award recognises that because the building is so important, restoration work was completed using original materials with original working techniques.


Åbenrå 16

Entasis A/S

Apartment building constructed on a plot in the historic centre of the city close to the King's Garden that has been vacant since 1970 when a number of old houses were demolished ahead of a major scheme to rebuild the street that was then abandoned.


The Silo, Lüdersvej 15


Prestigious apartments and a roof-top restaurant in the conversion of a concrete silo for grain that was the largest industrial building in the North Harbour. The challenge was to give the building a relevant and financially viable function to justify its survival; respect the scale of the building, with what are exceptional heights between the floors, and to retain qualities and the drama of the raw concrete of the original building but bring the spaces up to current standards of insulation. 

the two silos in May 2015


Frihavns Tårnet, Helsinkigade 18-20

Praksis Arkitekter ApS

Housing in the conversion of a former DLG silo close to the Silo. The industrial building was given a distinctive framework of balconies on three sides and the award recognises the quality of the apartments - “the decor and the choice of materials” but also appreciates that the design has created “liveable” homes particularly in terms their orientation to the natural light.



There is a page on the web site of Københavns Kommune - under Housing, Construction and Urban Life - on the Building Awards that has information about each of the nominated buildings with photographs, including some interiors, and a short video for an assessment of each of the projects by the City Architect Tina Saaby (in Danish).

Kengo Kuma to design the new aquatic centre in Copenhagen 


10 April 2018

It has just been announced that the Japanese studio of Kengo Kuma will design the new aquatic centre on Christiansholm … the island at the centre of the harbour in Copenhagen that is generally known as Papirøen / Paper Island because the Danish press stored newsprint in the warehouses here. The most recent use has been for popular food halls, a gallery for modern art, various design studios and quite a lot of covered car parking.

The key feature of the new building will be high brick pyramids - to follow the overall scheme for the island from COBE - but the swimming pool at the main level is to have glass on all sides for panoramic views and there will be a terraced walkway and shallow pools stepping down and forward towards the harbour.

Frihedsmuseet / Museum of Danish Resistance

Work on the new museum of Danish Resistance on Churchillparken seems to be moving forward fast with the excavation of the site visible through windows in the hoardings. The construction of a new museum followed an arson attack in April 2013 that destroyed the building although the collection and the archive was saved. 

Following a competition, the new museum has been designed by the architects Lundgaard & Tranberg whose scheme has an oval pill box like structure for the entrance at the level of the park but with the display galleries set underground … a compact and restrained design for a building that is in a sensitive location.

The timber buildings of the old museum certainly had a quirky charm but this solution allows for larger and more open areas for the displays and means up-to-date facilities and not just for visitors but of course also for the conservation of the collection.

Lundgaard & Tranberg

Sydhavnen Skolen by JJW Arkitekter



Almost every area of the city has a major new school and most by a major Danish architect or architectural partnership. The new school in the new development of the south harbour is by JJW Arkitekter.

It’s a large and dramatic building on an irregularly shaped plot with some parts towards the street supported on high columns so suspended over the pavement to provide public areas underneath opening off the pavement to provide some cover where children and parents can meet and talk or play when they come into the school or when they leave in the afternoon … an important part of the social life of any school here in Denmark. 

The school is in the centre of the new area, right on to the pavement, clearly visible from adjoining streets and nearby buildings and, looking out, the views are of the new neighbourhood. That’s not a limitation or a criticism but praise for how the school is designed to fit physically and obviously into the community. The building can be used by community so, for instance, dental care for the area is based in the building.

On the side away from the street, there are dramatic terraces, raised play areas, some at roof level, and broad walks and steps down to an inlet of the harbour, and as at Kids City in Christianshavn by COBE, smaller children are generally at the lower and more enclosed areas and more vigorous activities are higher up the building.

And again, as at Kids City, the arrangement of spaces deliberately reflects the organisation of the wider community so the description by the architect talks about the the lower level being like a town square.

Inside it is no less dramatic than outside - if anything more dramatic - with sections opening up through two or three floors with upper levels and narrower staircases cantilevered out or supported on thin columns or with wide flights of steps doubling as lecture rooms or forming places to meet.

Curiously this is what I like most and like least about the building. It’s a complicated, dramatic and fascinating building inside and out and children here presumably develop agility and stamina quite quickly and a head for heights. This is certainly the antidote to the one classroom-fits-all style of schools from the late 19th and early 20th century or the all-on-a-level schools of the post-war period. There are self-contained classrooms but they entered from wide wide and long open spaces with a variety of areas where different types of teaching or different activities can take place with smaller or larger numbers. The architects talk about the school having “an extremely high functional, spatial and tectonic quality” but architecture has and should have a clear vocabulary and in that sense should be readable … you should be able to see where to go and to some extent identify functions from the style and form of the architecture. That’s not to suggest it should not be fun but maybe just slightly more rational and slightly more solid. Perhaps, more of the architecture should be the background providing the venue for life here and not be the subject.

Having said that, photographs of the interior show masses of natural light - despite this being such a large and deep building - and strong confident use of colour and really good details like deep window seats or areas on the terraces that are more intimate. Encouraging and reinforcing friendship bonds seems to be an important part of the Danish education ethos. Certainly, with school buildings like this, you can see exactly why Danish children grow up appreciating good design and grow up to see good design as a strong part of their day-to-day lives.

Sydhavnen Skolen by JJW Arkitekter


for comparison see Kids City in Christianshavn by COBE


comment and correction to the post on Paimio Sanatorium

Aalto Armchair 42.jpg

Armchair 42 with a more pronounced curve to the front edge of the seat

x aalto-chair-no51-Aurora Hospital-1932 from 1934.jpg

the armchair used in the entrance hall and the bedrooms ... photograph from abelsloane1934

x bc931b64-bf91-4677-bbec-cd00d64379a7_g_570.Jpeg

chair with simple plywood seat on tubular metal frame. Note the way that the tubular frame is angled in immediately behind the front legs to make the back rail narrower than the space between the front legs. The chairs could not be stacked vertically but facing the same way they could slide together into lines for storage.

Today two comments came through on a post on this site ... my review for a recent exhibition at Designmuseum Danmark about the buildings and two of the chairs designed by Alvar Aalto for the Sanatorium at Paimio.

The comments raised several important points. One was that the initial version of the Paimio Chair did not have slots in the back of the head rest and these were introduced later. A photograph from the 1930s shows this chair used in the lounge of the hospital - an area for patients that had large windows overlooking the forest and part of the dining room but screened off from it by folding doors. The chairs are shown set out in four rows with the chairs facing parallel to the windows and not towards them and with all the chairs in a row facing in the same direction. This suggests that they were not arranged for socialising or conversation but to create a place where patients could sit quietly and rest. There were side tables between the rows - the Ring Table - a version of the Side Table 915 still made by Artek - with two ‘loops’ of bentwood that support a top tray and a shelf in plywood and both with the ends bent upwards. Looking at the photograph none of the chairs appear to have the slots in the head rest. The slots were said to help air circulate around the face of the patient - tuberculosis is a disease that compromises the lungs and breathing - so when were the slots introduced and for which building? 

The second comment was that the Armchair shown in the exhibition was not the version of Armchair no 42 that was used in the hospital but that the chair used at Paimio had a much more pronounced bend of plywood at the front edge of the seat than the chair in the exhibition. This is curious because a drawing showing the side views of both the chairs and details of the bentwood frames was included in the chapter by  Katrina Mikonranta in the volume on the Sanatorium published by the Alvar Aalto Foundation.* There, it is dated to 1934 and is labelled “preliminary drawing for the patent application for the production method of the Ring Chair (Paimio Chair) and Spring Chair (Armchair no 42)” and that shows the version of the armchair that was shown in the exhibition. Looking through the historic photographs available, I have not been able to find any views of rooms in the hospital at Paimio with this chair so which version of the chair was used and in which rooms? 

This proves, yet again, just how much a carefully-compiled concordance for the work of a designer can contribute. This is particularly important where designs are brought back into production, sometimes under a different name and sometimes made by a different company, and for early designs, both before and after the war, a cabinetmaker or workshop might well be producing a design in small batches with a changing workforce and, of course, many designs do evolve and can be modified deliberately over years of production if new or better materials are available or when new machinery for the workshop was developed.

The mistake that was completely mine was the ambiguous or badly-written sentence that implies that it was these bentwood chairs that were used on the terraces and the comment points out quite rightly that outside there were tubular metal recliners and again these can be seen in historic photographs.

This correction is an opportunity to add slightly more about the furniture for the Sanatorium that was not strictly relevant in the review of the exhibition because that focused on the two chairs. 

In fact, furniture for the new building was not included in 1928 in the initial terms of the competition to design the Sanatorium and Aalto submitted a separate proposal for furniture in March 1932 that was accepted by the Committee on 1st June. 

Kaarina Mikonranta, in her chapter on Paimio Interiors,* appears to show all the furniture for the hospital itself including an arm chair with a seat and back from a single piece of bent plywood with a wood frame that was used in the entrance hall. Still produced by Artek and now called Chair 403 'Hallway', these arm chairs were also used in the bedrooms for the patients. The rooms had two single beds with bed-side cabinets and a wardrobe with a curved door in plywood and across the window, which came down low to admit as much light as possible, there was a deep shelf across the width of the room, just inset from the window, to form a desk or table and photographs from the 1930s show rooms with two chairs drawn up to the shelf where patients could sit in front of the window.

Aalto designed a simple plywood seat on a cantilevered tubular metal frame, a simplified version of a Bauhaus chair that was used in the sanatorium reading room. Kaarina Mikonranta has included among the illustrations a fascinating photograph of at least 41 of the plywood shells of these chairs, on edge and pushed together as a batch, on the floor of the dining room and 37 versions of the same chair with a wider plywood seat where a long slot along the edge of the shell meant that an arm rest could be bent upwards on each side to form what was identified as Chair no 28. There was a wider version of the shell of Chair  no 28 that appears to have been covered in leather and was set on a wide metal base to form a chair for the Chief physician's workroom. Clearly all these plywood shells were waiting to be assembled.

For laboratory benches, there was a stool with a pyramid-shaped frame in metal strip, rather than tube, to support a round seat with a very low back piece and in the dining room there were good, simple, wood chairs with four legs and a back rest that could be stacked and are described as a “row chair”.

The offices of the Sanatorium staff and their accommodation in the villas and apartments on the site were also furnished and included hefty upholstered armchairs with the distinct frame of the Armchair 41.

Today, by coincidence, along with the email with the comments on the post, there was also a news letter from the furniture gallery Jacksons who specialise in Scandinavian and international vintage design. There was a photograph and a link there to an exhibition that they curated in June 2013 and called Paimio Sanatorium at Design Basel where they showed an amazing display of not just the furniture from a bedroom but doors, lighting and, of course, the washbasin and spittoon. These are some of the best photographs on the internet of the furniture in the rooms of the patients at the sanatorium and show the window shelf, door handles, and the Paimio Hall Stool.



 * Alvar Aalto architect Volume 5 Paimio Sanatorium 1929-33 Alvar Alto Foundation (2014) illustration 69 page 53

More photographs are included in a post here on Chairs in plywood by Alvar Aalto from March 2015

Stelling Building, Gammeltorv 6, by Arne Jacobsen

  1. from Nytorv, looking north across Gammeltorv towards Vor Frue Kirke with the people in the foreground walking along Strøget

  2. from the west looking across the top of the square and down the first part of Skindergade

  3. the main entrance into the shop on the corner


The Stelling building on Gammeltorv in Copenhagen has been empty and shuttered and seems to be waiting for a new tenant. Designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1934 and finished by 1938, it must be one of his least well known and least recognised buildings. 

It is actually on a major square in the centre of Copenhagen - Gammeltorv - but is at the top north-east corner and most people - huge numbers of people - cut straight across the centre of the public space as they walk along Strøget or The Walking Street. 

There is only a short frontage to the square itself but a long front to Skindergade … a narrow street that continues the line of the top edge of the square on eastward. Possibly the best initial view is to approach the square along the top from the west by walking along Vestergade that runs up to Gammeltorv from the top of the main square in the front of the city hall. 

Nørregade, that runs north from the top corner of the square, is much more important as a street because it takes you from Gammeltorv to Vor Frue Kirke - the cathedral - and then on to the railway and metro station at Nørreport but it is a relatively narrow street and the Jacobsen building, with its rounded corner, is not prominent from the pavement as you enter or as you leave the square along this east side.

Nor is it, perhaps, the easiest building to appreciate in terms of its style and it is probably not a surprise to find that it was heavily criticised when it was completed - one article even implied that Jacobsen should not be allowed to design anything else in the city.

The building was designed for the paint company Stelling to replace a much older store on this site. Their new building had display show rooms on the ground and on the first floor - in part to make the most of a fairly restricted and narrow plot - and with almost unbroken glazing to the square and to Skindergade on both floors. The interiors and fittings were all by Jacobsen including unique pendant lighting made by Louis Poulsen that was used both in the windows and above curved counters in front of shelving across the back walls.

Above, there are three upper floors of offices that over sail the glass walls below and are stark and almost top heavy - faced with large plain square ceramic tiles - 53cm x 53cm -  so the weight seems to hover over the glazed void below. There is no decoration and no architectural features - such as bands or cornices - to break the severity and no architraves to the windows with only minimal frames and no subdivisions of the glass so when the rooms behind are unlit then the windows look like blank holes punched through the wall.

Should this be seen as Jacobsen designing an industrial building or at least a deliberately and obviously functional building for retail in what was then the heart of the historic centre? The main structure is in concrete and the facing of the pillars is actually iron sheet that is painted grey so the contrast with the Renaissance grandeur of adjoining and nearby buildings could hardly be more marked.

Certainly it is a building that deserves much more attention and surely the long-term plan should be to find a way to restore the interior to its original form - the original teak and mahogany counters and shelving have all been removed.

approaching the square from the north, from Vor Frue Kirke, with just the edge of the Stelling building visible on the left

Studio Fountainhead



An exhibition of work by Dominique Hauderowicz and Kristian Ly Serena who founded Studio Fountainhead in 2013. This is the third of three exhibitions in the gallery over the Autumn to show the work of young architects from Copenhagen.

Studio Fountainhead

Dreyers Arkitektur Gallerei at Danish Architecture Centre in Copenhagen

continues until 30 December 2017


Lenschow & Pihlmann at DAC

The current exhibition in the Dreyer Architecture Gallery, on the upper level at the Danish Architecture Centre, explores the work of the Copenhagen partnership of Kim Lenschow Andersen and Søren Thirip Pihlmann. This is the first of exhibitions here through the Autumn that will look at three young architectural companies.

Parts or elements from the construction of recent buildings by Lenschow & Pihlmann are detached and isolated here, rather as if they are sculptures. Although these are simply components, when they are spotlit like this, they do justify closer scrutiny. A building is the sum of its parts so here, reversing the process and extracting parts of the buildings, it emphasises the technical and engineering aspects of many modern buildings and highlights how our increasing focus on insulation and on appropriate and careful use of materials has changed radically the way that buildings are constructed.

As a consequence, contemporary buildings seem to be less concerned with space and architecture in a plastic sense - about form and shadow defining and enclosing space - but buildings as relatively light structures with thin walls that are arranged as a series of flat planes.


continues at Danish Architecture Centre Strandgade until 4 November 2017

Lenschow & Pihlmann

a cleaner and much more elegant SAS Hotel


The SAS building - the hotel in the centre of Copenhagen that was designed by Arne Jacobsen - is being cleaned. 

That odd yellow grey green colour on the panels - presumably from air pollution - is being washed off and what has been revealed underneath is the soft grey-blue cloudy-sky colour of the panels that makes the tower look much more elegant and much more subtle. 

It might seem odd to talk about the design of such a large building as subtle but cleaning has restored a sharper, graphic character to the design - so that it is seems less about mass or volume - and the colour revealed restores a crucial relationship to the sky and to the reflection of clouds because from immediately below or from a distance the tower is seen against the sky rather than alongside or against other buildings.


see also:

geometry and proportion in buildings by Arne Jacobsen

playing with the conventions


For the post about waste chutes in Copenhagen it was necessary to discuss briefly the conventional or standard arrangement of apartment buildings in the city … with apartments running back from the front to the back of the block and with an entrance from the street with one apartment on each side at each level or landing and the waste chute outside the apartment, usually on the landing between the two apartments … but then in design and in architecture there are always exceptions so its interesting to look at what doesn’t follow the norm. 

Sometimes it’s a response to an exceptional situation where the conventional solution is not appropriate and sometimes it’s that business of a designer or architect ‘playing’ with the conventions and sometimes, with hindsight, that twist of the rules is actually the first example for something that gains in momentum and means a complete change in the convention.

So with the business of early apartment buildings in the city having a main staircase and then, in many buildings, a second or back staircase which in the best buildings give a separate route from the kitchen down to the courtyard without going down the best front stairs.

It was a social and a practical nicety to have a polite and a service stair but it was also crucial to provide a second staircase as a fire escape when the main staircase was in wood. As concrete was used more and more in the construction of apartment buildings in the city then having a concrete staircase with iron railings changed the assessment of the risk and gradually second or back staircases are seen as unnecessary and are omitted.

Change can be driven by fashion; evolve through innovative design or be forced through by sensible regulation. Oh and society does have an impact … no one in 1930, tipping their rubbish down one of those new-fangled rubbish chutes, could have had any idea that 90 years later the family in the same apartment would want to separate out paper from glass from food waste … designers and architects have to respond if the way people live their lives changes.  





illustration from Danske arkitekturstrømninger 1850-1950

This is Svendebjerghus on Hvidovrevej in a west suburb of the city. It was designed by Mogens Jacobsen and Alex Poulsen and completed in 1951. 

It is an amazing building where the conventions are subverted for all the right reasons. The apartments run front to back but adjoining apartments are up (or down) half a floor. Staircases are in the centre and turned to run with the axis of the building. There are waste chutes but to use them you are standing balanced on the staircase itself but that seems to be a small price to pay for all the other gains. One important change is that the block is set back from the road where there is a large garden because that is the west and sunny side so that is also the side where the balconies are. The entrance to the building is down a side road and then from the back … again for the most rational reasons. 

Curiously, despite not being conventional or standard in plan, it seems to represent well the style of the period. Originally the balconies were deep red and ochre yellow … the Copenhagen colours … so the bright deep blue is relatively new. The building is nick-named Hollywood.


This is an apartment building between Wildersgade and Overgaden Neden Vandet in Christianshavn. Waste chutes here are external, which is unusual, and the rubbish goes into bins that are not in the basement but at courtyard level where each chute has its own bin shed. What seems curious here is that the vertical chutes run across windows lighting the staircases and the hatches for the chute are not at a landing outside the front door but up or down half a level and for the ground-floor apartments, because the bins are at courtyard level, rather than in the basement, the hatch is immediately outside the door to the courtyard in the side of the bin shed.

Aalto at Designmuseum Danmark



An exhibition has just opened at Designmuseum Danmark about the building and furniture for the Paimio Sanatorium designed by Alvar Aalto and completed in 1933. The exhibition, in the area to the left of the entrance, includes two of the original chairs from the sanatorium that are in the permanent collection of the museum along with photograph of the building work, information and photographs of drawings and the finished building and its interior. 

The sanatorium was designed for the treatment of tuberculosis so the Functionalist building had features such as cupboards fixed up off the floor to make cleaning easier and there were wide and open balconies and a sun deck on the top floor where patients could sit out in the fresh air. The chairs were made with frames in steam-bent beech and with birch plywood … in part because these were timbers native to Finland and in part they provided comfort but also avoided potential problems with the hygiene of upholstery.

the exhibition continues until 21 January 2017




Hoardings are down and there is now public access to the new square and to the new building at Axeltorv. This major new development, opposite the main entrance to Tivoli, was designed by Lundgaard & Tranberg Arkitekter and is described as ‘five fused circular towers of different heights.’

Round towers are relatively unusual in the city - Rundetaarn or round tower at the west end of Trinitatis Kirke being one prominent example - but the round form of the towers in the new building may have been inspired by its site on one of the bastions of the old defences and the lower part of a medieval, circular, brick tower from the old wall survives nearby at Jarmers Plads.




The new Axeltorv is a stunning building and the facade, with its cladding panels and distinctive fins in the brass alloy tombac, is a visual link with Vesterport - the important office building further west by Povl Baumann and Ole Falkentorp that dates from 1930-1932 - although the tombac will presumably not take on the same green patina as the copper.




Clearly the building has created an important public square between Tivoli and Jerbanegade and public access has been taken high up into the building by a dramatic main staircase and narrower secondary staircases that rise between the towers to an upper court that has mature trees and good, high-quality hard landscaping with cobbles and seats that pick up the circular theme. And this upper space is very dramatic with curved upper links between the towers supported on simple but very tall and elegant columns.




But … and there is a big but … although the building and the square attract and pull the visitor through, it seems curiously not site specific. It is a virtuoso design but it fits unhappily with the street to its north and the buildings to its east where the older buildings have just been sliced off and there is a grim alleyway between the old and the new with views into back courtyards that were and are not meant to be seen. Yes, it is boring and safe to respect and retain street frontages and building heights but to break through them so dramatically here, on this site, undermines rather than pulls together what is already a confusing, crowded and visually distracting and fragmented townscape between the city hall and the main railway station.

Lundgaard & Tranberg Arkitekter

KADK Afgang Sommer’17


This weekend is the last opportunity to see the exhibition of the projects and work of this year's graduates from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation … a densely packed show of the talents and the phenomenal imaginations and skills of the students who have just completed their courses in Copenhagen.

There are profiles of the students and photographs and descriptions of their work on the KADK site.

The exhibition ends on 13th August. 

KADK, Danneskiold-Samsøe Alle, Copenhagen