The City Houses (Byhusene)
Islands Brygge, Copenhagen
2013 - 2016

A lit­tle house in the city

The Building Society house 2.0

The classic Danish Building Society houses, as we know them from Copenhagen’s so-called Potato Rows (Kartoffelrækkerne) and Hops City (Humleby), contain obvious qualities, including their built-in flexibility, welcoming setting and human scale: low-rise, high-density with good conditions for community building. The Harbour Cove (Havnevigen) development by Islands Brygge in Copenhagen offered an opportunity to realize Vandkunsten’s idea for an updated version of the Building Society houses.

In addition to their liveability qualities, the Harbour Cove City Houses (Byhusene) also meet the specific challenge presented by the local planning requirement of unusually high building coverage. The result is a development that is even denser than, for example, the Potato Rows.

The parallels to the traditional Building Society houses from the early 20th century are obvious, with clear spatial divisions and distinct boundaries between private and public areas. The design of the City Houses is quite different, however. We have added a range of variations, including balconies and set-back entrance sections. These adjustments aim to enhance the utilitarian value of the home for the modern family.

Awarded best Housing

The project is recognized by the City of Copenhagen as the best new housing project

Staggered volumes

One of the characteristics of the City Houses is their relative distribution, as the individual floors are staggered by half a flight of stairs. This enables partially integrated parking underneath the house and atrium. This solution offers direct access from the underground car park to the home, which is not only convenient but also makes it possible to avoid street-side parking. Thus, the shared access space is upgraded to a useful communal living space.

The new beach as a neighbor

The rows of City Houses (Byhusene) and the U-shaped Strandtorvet connect to the new beach by a long meadow-like wedge

Like a broken-in leather jacket

The new and pristine is rarely a prized quality in architecture. Homes are a setting for life, and lived life shapes and adds character to the space where it unfolds. In the City Houses, we have made wide use of wood and recycled bricks, which adds striking textural qualities and gives the houses a lived-in feel from day one.

Eliminating everything that does not add quality

The public access roads have room to unload a removal van but are otherwise kept free of parking. Instead, they can be used as a communal space, almost as an informal extension of the small individual front gardens.

Private outdoor living in a high-density development

The principle of the staggered floors gives every house a private roof terrace. This compensates for the high density by giving all residents access to a private outdoor space, where they can always find sun or shelter. Since the houses vary between two and three storeys, the height is used to delimit the roof terraces and preserve the residents’ privacy.

Guided by the sun

The City Houses are oriented east-west, and the rows of houses are bisected by a green wedge that serves as a shared commons. Due to the east-west orientation, the street space gets the afternoon sun, while most of the roof terraces catch the evening sun.

Eco-friendly quality

The houses all have the Nordic Swan Ecolabel. Among other benefits, the client’s ambitious decision to secure this certification has led to the use of materials that contribute to a healthy indoor climate. It also inspired the use of 700,000 recycled bricks on the facades. Recycling is good for the environment, and the patinated brickwork adds character and gives the facades a distinctive expression.

Courtyard on the second floor

The City Houses have private parking in the basement which enables staggered floors. This furthermore lifts the back courtyard on storey offering plenty of sunshine.

Project facts


Project name: The City Houses (Byhusene)


Client: Bonava

Location: Islands Brygge, Copenhagen

Gross area: 173.000

Date: 2013 - 2016

Status: Finished

Number of units: 110


Program: Private homes

Activity: Architectural design

Job type: Turnkey

Construction system: Prefab concrete, masonry facades from reused brick.

Contact: Jan Albrechtsen,

Project group: Thomas Nybo Rasmussen, Olmo Ahlmann, Camilla Libonati, Emma Hansson, Michael Delin, Andreas Skytte Hvid, Jan Albrechtsen, Michael Sten Johnsen

Employees: Ingibjörg Benediktsdóttir


Architect: Vandkunsten

Landscape: Vandkunsten

Engineer: NCC Construction

Contractor: NCC Construction