Landscapes in housing is the theme of a conference arranged by the research center Dumbarton Oaks, which is part of Harvard University. Vandkunsten’s Architect, landscape director, and partner Thomas Nybo Rasmussen has been invited to speak at the conference and introduce our approach and selected projects.

Below is Thomas’ abstract for the conference which brings researchers and practitioners together to discuss urban landscape architecture

The Nature of [working with] the landscape

Integration of building and landscape in the works of Vandkunsten Architects

By focusing on the correlation between building and site, the aim of the talk is to present selected works of Vandkunsten Architects from early project of 1970’s to the present day.
The aim is to present the background and the architectural ambition of the office, through 5-6 iconic projects.

•    Why was it important to find new ways of building and living together in the early 70’s?

•    What was the purpose of low-dense cooperative housing, and why were the understanding of the site, and the surrounding landscape such a strong focus in the design?

•    What did the notion of ‘the life between the houses’ and social relations as part of the settlement have on the traditional architectural approach?

The notion of ‘the good life’ as a possibility for all people, rich or poor, to grow up and live in houses and communities that held/included architectural quality, became an overall ambition in the early 70’s, for new housing schemes, as a response to the rigid industrial ‘crane-track’ housing complexes that boomed in the 60’s.
Vandkunsten Architects played a leading role in this transition.

The change in approach and the underlying political engagement altered the way architects looked upon the challenge of creating livable housing communities, and supported by the emerging welfare state the social housing sector, took a leading role in the creation of quality architecture for ordinary people.

In these new low-dense developments the buildings were closely related to the landscape, with much focus on the design and the space between the houses, creating space for new ways of using the ‘outdoors’. The early Vandkunsten projects became a prototype for much of the housing developments that followed, not only in Denmark, but also in the Nordic countries.

The interaction between indoors and outdoors has been a design parameter in the work of Vandkunsten since the very beginning, focusing on letting the architecture work with the landscape, rather than against the site. Respecting the topography, vegetation, waterways, view’s etc. often offers an obvious design scheme, in such a way that architecture and landscape works as a whole, lifting the quality of the entire building complex.

The ability to read and understand the landscape has thus been the basis of Vandkunsten’s ongoing ambition to produce projects of high architectural value, understood as a symbiotic correlation between landscape and architecture. Understanding good architecture as more than just design and construction technique, but as a discipline that encompasses landscape; social and economic aspects into a broader perspective on sustainability.