At Vandkunsten Architects we design architecture for people. Our houses are designed for the ways that people live, work, play, and think. Housing, buildings, and cities must be at eye level and make room for communities.
Better living with us
The successful experiment
From its setting on open land in the town of Herfølge, Tinggaarden has served as the model for low-rise, high-density residential architecture in Denmark since it was built in 1978. Tinggården tells the story of a highly successful non-profit housing experiment that used architecture as a vehicle for reinstating the residents’ democracy in the local community. In 1971, the Danish Building Research Institute, SBI, held a competition on alternative housing forms. The competition offered an obvious opportunity for demonstrating our ideal of flexible architecture at eye level as a radical contrast to the technocratic high-rise developments that were being built at the time and what we saw as the wasteland of suburban single-family-house developments. We won the competition with a proposal that put the emphasis on community and sought to give the residents real influence. Both with regard to the architectural design and with regard to people’s ability to shape their lives and homes. The competition paved the way for the housing experiment Tinggården and also led to the establishment of Vandkunsten Architects. Tinggaarden was completed in 1978. The original development consisted of 78 homes placed into six family clusters, each with a communal building to be used for shared meals and other activities. In addition, a large communal hall was constructed for all the residents of Tinggaarden. Tinggaarden was expanded in a second phase in 1983–84, which doubled the number of homes in the development.
The Blue Corner
For a tiny plot in Copenhagen’s Christianshavn district we designed six non-profit homes as a form of modern urban renewal. A corner plot can be tricky, but opening it up leads to brighter homes and public access to the historical backyard. A sort of low-rise, high-density multi-storey building in one. Using low-cost, industrial sheet steel for the facade and roof made for a distinctive expression in the old neighbourhood. Simple, industrial materials and a bright and uniform colour scheme strike a contrast to the complex rooms. A recipe for building new in a historical neighborhood is based on a considerate yet contemporary approach.
Communal living under one big roof
A private group of owners commissioned Vandkunsten to build a coop with maximized level of community. We added many of the original ideas about community and democracy from our manifest-like Project 35 (1970), but on a much smaller and more manageable scale. It was built in close dialogue with the residents on a plot in Ringsted. Previously home to a sawmill (Jystrup Savværk), it became the site for experimental residential solutions and energy efficiency. The coop housing development Jystrup Sawmill (Jystrup Savværk) feels like one big house with 21 private residential units, a ‘single organism’ with 40% communal space, where private and communal areas can shrink and grow as needed.
Local community built in wood
Built in wood, the 100 units in Fjordparken were part of the experimental Casa Nova Consortium to develop processes and prefabrication for wood-based construction. With offset units, they all have corner qualities and great views to the fjord. The project has gallery access held by solid wood and shielded by a large roof overhang. The project was built by in 2002 for a non-profit and a private cohousing client, Himmerland Boligforening and Andelsforeningen Marina Fjordparken. The latter was formed for the occasion has proven its community strength over time as it was named best cohousing 2019 by the Danish cohousing associtation.
Low-rise, high-density architecture in Swedish
On the Kattegat coast, just north of the Swedish city of Helsingborg, lies the idyllic town of Viken. An old fishing hamlet, not dissimilar to Skovshoved or Dragør in Denmark, places rich in local pride that attract visitors from near and far, who come here to experience the idyllic village atmosphere. Here, on a former school plot in the centre of town, Vandkunsten was commissioned to design a modern housing development with respect for the traditional setting. Around the turn of the millennium, Vandkunsten had been working mainly with low-rise, high-density architecture in non-profit housing. At Viken, we had the opportunity to translate these basic principles into a private project commissioned by an ambitious client, the co-op housing association HSB Västra Skåne. The development consists of 58 homes. Traditional, simple types that could be sited just about anywhere. But right here, in this idyllic setting, they come into their own, with their uniform and coherent expression. The high density encourages interaction and meetings in the narrow alleys and passageways. Classic Vandkunsten dogmas, but also virtues that have been practised in the hamlet since the 17th century.