cladding in Copenhagen


the south end of the harbour in Copenhagen looking across to the Gemini  building by MVRDV and JJW Architects converted from silos to form 84 apartments in 2005


There are so many large new buildings in Copenhagen that the city could claim to have the International Reference Collection of Cladding. 

At the very least, if architectural students want to look at what is possible with different types of external wall for new concrete or steel-framed buildings then the city would be a good starting point.

I'm not saying that many of these examples are bad … no value judgements were intended … as they say … to avoid litigation. But some are curious in a bad way and many are curious in a good way … quirky or challenging or very revealing about what the architect or the planner or the client was trying to achieve.

Some are actually amazing and outstanding and tell us much about how and why architecture developed so rapidly in terms of both engineering and building technology through the 20th century and most might be worth looking at because they are interesting to think about … if it's not raining and you are not in a hurry.


early buildings with facing or cladding on a concrete or steel construction:


Copenhagen Teknisk Skole, Julius Thomsens Gade from 1938 by S C Larsen and Aage Rafn. The building is faced in brick rather than constructed in brick. Bricks over the windows in a conventional construction would have to have a lintel or a flat arch to support the weight of the wall above and stop the bricks dropping down. Here the facing bricks must be set against either a steel girder or the concrete floor


Vesterport commercial building Vesterbrogade 1932 by Ole Falkenthorp and Povl Baumann - an early and large steel-framed building with reinforced concrete floors with the exterior faced with copper


Arne Jacobsen - 

Arne Jacobsen (1902-1971) was one of the most important architects of the mid 20th century. He was one of the first Danish architects to establish an International reputation but the majority of the buildings he designed are in and around his home city of Copenhagen. He established a style that was intrinsically restrained, simple by the standards of many contemporary buildings yet explored and pushed forward engineering solutions for building types that we now take for granted ... so he refined the planning of complicated arrangements of civic offices, designed factories and petrol stations and new forms of housing. In these buildings he also explored new construction methods and, inevitably, experimented with cladding materials for buildings that were constructed with a framework of concrete and steel. Working on both innovative and important commissions, many of the materials he used were of the highest quality.



Arne Jacobsen faced several buildings with tiles - here in 1937 for the building for A Stelling at Gammel Torv 6 in Copenhagen



The Texaco Service Station on Strandvejen from 1937. Technically amazing for the date with the great concrete canopy above the petrol pumps on a single support but the kiosk and the adjoining car wash are clad in white tiles. Note how the markers of the clock face fit rationally with the lines of grout between the tiles and the glass blocks in the wall of the car wash fit precisely into the coursing of the tiles with two special tiles, with part cut out and with rounded edges, were made to fit precisely. Some would argue this is obsessive but it would stand out and be intrusive if it was badly done.


Søllerød town hall by Arne Jacobsen from 1942. A reinforced- concrete frame faced in marble from Porsgrund with copper clad roof. The success of the facade depends on the proportions of the design and the quality of the stonework as it has been stripped deliberately of architectural articulation with no plinths, no cornice and no architraves to the window openings. Somehow, though, this is not a stark minimalism ... rather it is architectural rationalism.


Jespersen & Son Nyropsgade Copenhagen by Arne Jacobsen 1955. Here again it is the precision of the design and the proportions of the panels and their relationships that makes the front so elegant


Housing in Rødovre by Jacobsen from the 1950s. This type of facade has not proved popular for domestic buildings


Rødovre town hall

completed in 1956 - marble cladding on a concrete structure


The National Bank in Copenhagen by Jacobsen that was completed in 1971. It is perhaps his most sophisticated game with design and cladding in the city - creating panels and layers above the monumental blocks of stone that face the ground-floor level

Facing or cladding materials:


Den Danske Scenekunstskole, Per Knutzons Vej - a modern building on Holmen with timber cladding

Radiohuset, Frederiksberg by Vilhelm Lauritzen and completed in 1956

Fyrtårnet, Amerika Plads. Apartment buildings by Lundgaard and Tranberg 2007. Unusual use of slate hanging particularly for a high tower. Note the bent pins holding the overlapping slates in place.


CPH Conference Tietgensgade from 2009 by PLH Arkitekter and Schmidt Hammer and Lassen - glass curtain wall at its best?

The glass reflects but also takes on the colours from nearby buildings and in sunlight the shadows on and inside the building add to the complexity


the huge area of glass and its support system of wires at the centre of the harbour front of the Royal Library - the Black Diamond - by Schmidt Hammer Lassen completed in 1999

Architects House,

Strandgade by 3XN from 1996. These details of the back of the building - towards the harbour - show an intricate design grid that links together the panels of a glass-roofed box and facing blocks on the archway. Horizontal lines continue into the building where there is a skeletal or grid-like staircase set just back from the window wall. This is a sophisticated game with lines and planes to create a building that is like complex three-dimensional graph paper


concrete balcony and facing blocks on one of the apartment towers at Bellahøjhusene housing scheme from 1951-1956



the headquarters of Mærsk in Copenhagen

Knippelsbro with copper cladding - originally known as Store Amager Bro or Langebro - this bridge was designed by Kaj Gottlob and opened in 1937

Blue Planet by 3XN competed in 2013 with a steel frame clad in aluminium



copper cladding and rounded corners of the tower at Amerika Plads by Arkitema from 2004

The Mountain - an apartment building from 2008 by BIG and JDS. There are three distinct types of cladding with timber on the south-east side, on the terraces of apartments, but to the east, north and west the lower level has panels of aluminium pierced with holes that create an image of a mountain range and above, for the apartments themselves, plain metal sheet in regular courses and blocks suggesting ashlar 

Toldbodgade 13 by BBP Arkitekter 2012 with perforated metal for the front and for horizontal shutters


Zinkhuset Amerika Plads with 60 apartments around a courtyard. Designed by Holsøe Arkitekter and completed in 2008. The strips of zinc vary in width but are consistent for the full height and carefully respect the edge of the openings or fenestration to give the building an interesting vertical emphasis. The colour is a dull grey green known in 17th-century England as 'drab'


Krøyers Plads by Vilhelm Lauritzen and COBE 2016. Brickwork on large modern buildings is regularly used to give a more traditional look. Applied as a thin face, rather than used structurally, the brickwork does not have to have conventional courses or bonding patterns. Here the effect is slightly curious as the 'frogs' - the hollow normally in the top of the brick to take more mortar, and therefore normally hidden - is turned outwards and the brinks in each course are only slightly staggered with very narrow 'bats' at the end of every other course to fill the gap. The effect, with the thick mortar against the sharp precision of the window frames, is, if anything slightly crude, but then I guess my taste is boringly staid


Horten 3XN 2009. The distinct faceted face to the building has a new type of panel developed for this building with layers of fibreglass sandwiching high-insulating foam


The shaped glass panels of the Saxo Bank building by 3XN from 2008 against one of the three towers of Punkthusene by Vilhelm Lauritzen from 2009

Both Horten and these buildings are part of the redevelopment of Tuborg Havn in Hellerup immediately north of Copenhagen



- a school designed by COBE and completed in 2014. The very unusual facing material is brick slats described as ceramic lamella. The detail of the fixing, hidden on the building, was photographed at the exhibition at the Danish Architecture Centre in the Autumn 2016 on the work of COBE - Our Urban Living Room

some odd problems with cladding?



This building has cladding that tries to imitate the coursing of ashlar blocks but has problems at the corners so curiously it ends up looking more like paving slabs applied to the building


Ordrupgaard Museum - north of Copenhagen. The addition by Zaha Hadid was completed in 2005.  A curiously inappropriate shape that dominates an historic house and good gardens. There are certainly odd problems resolving how the building sits on the ground - the external finish is described as black lava concrete


Tower at Ørestads Boulevard 106 with a dramatic north wall that bows inwards towards the base but there are problems reconciling the glazing with the shape of the silhouette and there is a slightly curious effect with the heavy dark frames of windows forming a vertical line of squares above the entrance


8House by BIG. Apartments over shops and offices completed in 2010. The plan is complex around two courtyards with access from a sloping walkway so adjoining apartments are at different levels and the courtyard facades are made more complex by upper floors over sailing and angled balconies that are in part enclosed to provide some privacy. The result is an incredibly complex patchwork of cladding ... visually irrational and possibly with problems with joins. Every piece of cladding is a different shape creating a feeling of restlessness and at the upper level the top lines of windows appear to be sliding apart horizontally. The concept is brilliant and I am sure that Bjarke Ingels would argue, and probably be right to argue, that with constraints on budgets and with time scales it is better to build first and worry about drain pipes and cladding later.

Bohrs Tårn and the buildings immediately north of the new Carlsberg suburban railway station by Vilhelm Lauritzen. A curious mixture of cladding types and odd junctions of different facades that somehow makes the cladding look like wallpaper. Is this architecture where facades have been reduced to surfaces or is it no longer necessary to relate cladding to the structure, plan, function and engineering of the building?