Lundgaard and Tranberg


CBS Kilen, Kilevej 14, Frederiksberg 2005


For a city of its size, Copenhagen seems to have a disproportionate number of top architects. Some, like Bjarke Ingels, with his rise to international prominence, may now work as often on buildings in New York or London or Dubai or Shanghai as in Denmark but actually, over the last 20 years, there has been so much building work in the city - so much new and high-quality architecture commissioned and completed - that one aspect of the city that might not be more widely appreciated, is that here you can see not just several but many buildings by each single practice or design studio and you can trace, within a tight and accessible geographic area, how their careers and how their ideas have evolved. 

That means for the student, or for anyone interested in architecture and buildings, because the city is still relatively compact, you can get to see these buildings quite easily. And you begin to see that within that broad group of contemporary Copenhagen architects you can discern very different interests, even obsessions, or, more politely, to see how each architect can have a different focus that becomes not so much a specialisation but in effect a signature. 

Walking around Amager to look at the works from the first ten years or so of the designs by Bjarke Ingels, I think I see a man who loves the city - so he often uses well-established themes or planning forms - but he hates the fact it is so flat. He wants to be a downhill skier - actually literally at the Amager incinerator - in a place that does not even have that much chance for cross country. So he twists and tilts … if you can't build on a mountain you build a mountain under the building.

Buildings by 3XN in the city seem to focus on an open core for the circulation through a building that comes back to an atrium and often a phenomenally complicated staircase - so these are inward looking, cerebral building - while the architects at Cobe appear to work in absolutely the opposite direction to bring the outside in so barriers or boundaries become blurred but they also give the outside space fittings and functions of the interior but just without a ceiling.

With the buildings in the city by Lundgaard and Tranberg, some of those same features appear - obviously - so the Kilen building at the Copenhagen Business School has an amazing atrium and staircase as the main internal circulation area - the point everyone comes back to - but they have also opened up the entrances on both sides to welcome people to walk straight through so that the atrium becomes a public square on the way from one place to another. 

But if there is one clear and essential quality with all their buildings in the city, it seems to be a focus on the colour and the surfaces of the exterior in a very thoughtful, very careful and very sophisticated way. They play with and control texture and colour and tone and reflection in very different ways in each building. It's a subtle approach and not something tangible - a form or plan or feature - in common between the design and appearance of different buildings. It’s not even a style, as such, but an astute awareness of the quality of the natural light in the city that is the constant.

Lundgaard & Tranberg Arkitekter


CBS Kilen, Kilevej 14, Frederiksberg 2005. The building appears to be raised above street level on a grass mound. Approaching from the south the entrance is at the centre and gives access to the central atrium with doors out of this public area on the opposite side. The atrium is at street level but on either side there are steps and blocks up that can be used for seating where people sit and have coffee or sit and talk and the main rooms at either end of the building are at what is, in effect, a raised ground floor level. The internal steps of the atrium are continued on the outside on either side of the entrance to form seating areas that are presumably used in the summer.


CBS Kilen, showing the entrance from the south and showing clearly the columns of the floor structure set well back from the windows and panels of the exterior. The atrium with its dramatic staircase is not only a central space for circulation within the building but the central area on each long side seems to drop down through the line of the embankment that forms the base of the building to make the opposed doors a cross route through the building. 


Tietgenkollegiet, Rued Langgårdsvej 10-18, Copenhagen student housing from 2006. Student accommodation around a circular courtyard. Student rooms are on the outside and look out over the campus while common rooms and balconies look inwards to the courtyard to reinforce a sense of community.


Skuespilhuset - The Royal Danish Playhouse - Sankt Annæ Plads 36, Copenhagen 2007. The large tower is the fly tower above the stage. Long thin, dark grey bricks used for the main facades were developed specifically for this building. The east wall of the theatre looks out over a broad board walk or jetty and the harbour beyond ... this area is the restaurants and the foyer to the theatre itself, which is at the centre of the building. The band of glass above that is jettied or cantilevered out is actually dressing rooms and offices with lower levels and seating immediately on front of the glass so actors and staff retain a strong sense of the outside world. The glass is tinted but also picks up the strong colours and reflected light that comes up off the water


Charlottehaven, Strandboulevarden 76-88, Copenhagen 2002. The design here is more conventional ... certainly more regular with clear references to the style and form of Copenhagen apartment buildings from the past ... from the 1930s and 1940s and 50s. The courtyard is large - long from north to south and enclosed on the east side by a series of detached blocks although buildings at ground level are continuous and maintain the sense of enclosure and privacy. Here the colour palette is soft greys and mauves. The planting of sedges and grasses and pines is particularly good but there are still the bike sheds and play equipment you would expect but carefully integrated onto the arrangement of paths and open areas  


SEB Bank and Pension, Bernstorffsgade 44, Copenhagen 2010. Between the two blocks is a steep slope of paths that zig-zag up and the area is densely planted with conifers and larches to form an urban woodland. The cladding of the building has a vertical accent with the panels and windows being of various widths but with the width consistent for the full height. Colours are the deep blues and turquoise greens that go back to the period of Arne Jacobsen and earlier in the city 


Pakhuset På Langelinie, Langelinie Allé, Copenhagen 2015. Here the use of red brick was determined by an over riding scheme for the quay where the new buildings are very deep, substantial blocks, that pick up the scale and the simple form of the massive brick-built historic warehouses of the inner harbour. The trial section of the roof that was built on the quay adjoining the construction site offices is a fairly common requirement for planning where the architects and the builders show what the building really will look like and it can be used as a clear guide to what was agreed in case finishes or designs are modified as work actually proceeds. 


Axel Towers, Axeltorv 2, Copenhagen ... nearing completion. The cladding is copper. This group of circular towers is close to the north side of the Tivoli Gardens but not far from the large copper-clad building on Vesterbrogade by Povl Baumann and Ole Falkentorp from 1932 so the new building will pick up a well-established material and colour tone for buildings in this part of the city