1971 - 1978

The suc­cess­ful ex­per­i­ment

The origins of low-rise, high-density architecture

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.

Vandkunsten DNA

”In many regards, Tinggaarden also marked the beginning of Vandkunsten Architects. We created a manifesto for the competition, with clear architectural positions on everything from the way we shape our society and functioning communities to the interaction between the built and the natural environment, the choice of materials and so forth. These ideas went far beyond the specific project and shaped the way we’ve been approaching architecture ever since.”

- Michael Sten Johnsen, architect MAA and co-founder of Vandkunsten Architects

Soppy Swedish sentimentality

Prefab, painted wooden facades and water-scoured brickwork. Grey Eternit roofs. Cowboy Town and Swedish children’s book architecture were some of the criticisms from contemporary architects at the time. The residents were more appreciative.

Elementary flexibility

Despite the varied exterior, the development consists of a simplified construction based on elements and a system of spatial components that offer a high degree of flexibility in the choice of types of homes and the way they are combined. The added rooms in between the flats allow for variation over time.



Village inspiration and access to the landscape

Tinggaarden has 6 clusters of homes that each have their own community house, little squares and gathering places. All homes have acces to their social community as well as direct access to the surrounding landscape - this quality is basically the backbone of low-rise, high density architure.

Comprehensive user process

Based on the original competition proposal, a continuous democratic development of Tinggaarden unfolds in close cooperation with a dedicated group of future residents.

Small homes but ample room

The individual homes are relatively small, with an average floor space of 78 square metres. However, with the availability of communal areas and houses, which account for some 10%, compared to 3% in most non-profit housing, even families with children find that they have sufficient space.

A broader perspective on private space

With its open-plan and facade compositions, which invite the residents to take active part in the community, Tinggården has become a model for low-rise, high-density architecture in Denmark.

When family rooms were a radical element

Denmark’s perhaps first family room with an adjoining kitchen saw the light of day in Tinggaarden. A novel and radical solution in the late 1970s. Less so today.

The development includes five different housing types placed in clusters, each with a communal house. The robust, simple homes have flexible walls that allow for continual modification, so that for example, one family may acquire and take over a room from the neighbour.

Project facts


Project name: Tinggården


Client: Tæt-lav Herfølge

Location: Herfølge

Date: 1971 - 1978

Status: Finished

Number of units: 78 homes, 1 community house, 6 family unitd with a common house each


Program: Non-profit housing and community houses

Activity: Architecture, landscape, user proces

Job type: 1st prize in competition

Construction system: Prefabricated concrete elements, masonry, wooden facades

Contact: Jan Albrechtsen, jal@vandkunst.dk

Project group: Jens Thomas Arnfred, Michael Sten Johnsen, Jan Albrechtsen


Architect: Vandkunsten Architects

Landscape: Vandkunsten Architects

Engineer: Viggo Michaelsen A/S

Contractor: Larsen & Nielsen A/S