A diversity of styles was represented in Denmark at the turn of the century, from the Art
Nouveau commercial building (1907) designed by Anton Rosen for one of Copenhagen’s
main shopping streets to the Dutch Renaissance-inspired Student Union Building (1910)
by Ulrik Plesner and Aage Langeland-Matthiessen. In response to the lack of a defining
style, many architects began to search for a “national architecture” that would be based
on Danish traditions rather than on movements originating in other parts of Europe. The
first step in this direction resulted in the Abel Cathrine’s Foundation Building (1885–86)
by H.B.Storck; however, the most instrumental figure in the search for a national
architecture was Martin Nyrop. Commissioned to design the Copenhagen Town Hall
during the final decade of the 19th century, Nyrop sought to create a building that reacted
to reliance on applied Renaissance-inspired ornament that characterized many buildings
at the time and that responded to Danish material traditions and Nordic mythology via
well-integrated details. The attention to material and detail is also evident in Nyrop’s
Bispebjerg Hospital (1907–13) and in the addition to Vallekilde High School (1907–08).
Nyrop’s wish for a national architecture was shared by P.V.Jensen Klint, who was
responsible for the design of Grundtvig’s Church (1913–40), which was clearly inspired
by Danish brick traditions and the architecture of parish churches.
The debate concerning an appropriate style intensified during the first decade of the
20th century and culminated in a decisive event in 1910 precipitated by suggested
alterations to Vor Frue Church, originally designed by C.F.Hansen and constructed
Encyclopedia of 20th-century architecture 670
between 1811 and 1829. The brewery owner Carl Jacobsen offered to donate a spire for
the church, and although many of the older generation of architects were in agreement,
Carl Petersen and a number of younger architects argued that it would destroy the church
and greatly compromise the building; ultimately, the church was fitted with a Doric tower
that was in keeping with the original neoclassical building. Carl Petersen’s allegiance to
Neoclassicism is evident in the Faaborg Museum (1912–15), which clearly
acknowledged the work of Hansen. The culmination and the demise of neoclassicism are
represented in Hack Kampmann’s Copenhagen Police Headquarters (1925). Like the
police station, Kampmann’s other work was characterized by a theatrical formalism, as
evidenced in the Århus Theatre (1898–1900), the Customs House (1895–97) in Århus
Harbor, and the National Library (1898–1902) in Århus.
The transition from Neoclassicism to the Nordic adaptation of the Modern movement,
commonly referred to as functionalism, is most clearly seen in the area of housing, as
living standards and housing shortages were of political and social importance in
Denmark following World War I. One of the leaders in improving housing was
Copenhagen’s Public Housing Association (KAB), which oversaw the construction of the
Studiebyen demonstration project (1920–24) to examine alternatives for singlefamily
houses, duplexes, and row houses. Among the architects participating were Thorkild
Henningsen and Ivar Bentsen, Anton Rosen, and the influential teacher and architect Kay
Fisker. During the same period, Henningsen and Bentsen were also commissioned by the
KAB to build a series of row houses around Copenhagen that provided small back and
front gardens while maintaining the street wall that was characteristic of traditional
housing in provincial Danish towns. Large-scale housing projects undertaken at this time
were five- or six-story blocks organized around an open interior court, as seen in Povl
Baumann’s municipal housing (1919–20) at the corner of Hans Tavsensgade and
Struensgade in Copenhagen and Kay Fisker’s Hornbækhus (1922–23). The
transformation from closed housing blocks to freestanding parallel rows of flats can be
traced through Ved Classens Have (1924) by Carl Petersen, Povl Baumann, Ole
Falkentorp, and Peter Neilsen; Solgården (1929) by Peter Hansen; and finally the
freestanding parallel blocks of housing at the Blidah Park housing estate designed by a
group of architects that included Edvard Heiberg, Karl Larsen, and Ivar Bentsen. The
complete transition to functionalism is evident in Vordroffsvej 2 (1929) and in the
Vestersøhus housing complexes by Kay Fisker and C.F.Møller.
During the 1930s, two new tendencies developed, the first characterized by the
adherence to the ideals of the Modern movement with the acceptance of Danish building
traditions and form language and another that favored the aesthetic criteria of modernism.
The former tendency can be seen in the buildings at Århus University, which were
initiated in 1931 by Fisker, Møller, and Paul Stegmann. Those architects who adhered to
the stylistic tendencies of the Modern movement included Vilhelm Lauritzen, whose
restrained formalism and elegant detailing are illustrated in the Radio Building (1937–
47), Gladsaxe Town Hall (1937), and Kastrup Airport Terminal (1939). At the end of the
1930s, Mogens Lassen, who was influenced by the ideas of Le Corbusier, constructed a
series of houses that successfully reconciled ideas imported from France and Germany
and the attention to material and detail that characterized Danish architecture.
Arne Jacobsen revealed his affinity for the aesthetic sensibilities of the Modern
movement in the Bellavista housing complex from 1934, which employs a flat roof and
Entries A–F 671
brick walls rendered smooth and painted white. Like the previous generation of
architects, Jacobsen’s work was characterized by a formal simplicity and attention to
detail. These tendencies are revealed in the town halls in Århus (1937–42), Søllerød
(1940–42, designed in association with Flemming Lassen), and Rødovre (1955). In 1960,
Jacobsen completed the tallest building in Denmark up to that time, the SAS Hotel, which
was based on Skidmore, Owings and Merrill’s Lever House in New York. One year later,
the commission for the new headquarters of the National Bank of Denmark (1965–78)
was awarded to Jacobsen and completed after his death by his successor firm Dissing &
Whereas some architects continued to work within the dictates of international
modernism during the 1940s and 1950s, others looked to the American West Coast and
Japanese architecture for inspiration. Houses by Jørn Utzon, Erik Christian Sørensen, and
Vilhelm Wohlert revealed a concern for the relationship between interior and exterior,
clearly expressed structure, and spatial variety using a series of standard elements. The
most notable examples of these ideas are Utzon’s Kingo Houses (1958–60) and
Fredensborg Terraces (1962–63) and Jørgen Bo and Vilhelm Wohlert’s Louisiana
Museum, a complex that has continually grown by accretion from its inception in 1958.
A number of influences are visible in Danish architecture of the 1960s,
including that of the work of Utzon, as seen in the dense, low-rise housing
projects Ved Stampedammen (1965), Carlsmindepark (1965), Åtoften
(1966), and Nivåvænge (1966). Another influence that was evident at the
time was the work of the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, who together with
Jean-Jacques Baruël had won a competition for the North Jutland Art
Museum in 1958. Aalto’s influence is evident in Paul Niepoort’s
Sønderborg Church (1961) and Børglum Kollegium (1967); Jørgen Bo,
Karen Clemmensen, and Ebbe Clemmensen’s Blaagaard State Teachers
College and Enghavegård School complex (1962–66); and Baruël’s
Sønderborg Business College (1964–74). Erik Christian Sørensen
continued to emphasize the importance of structural clarity and material
honesty in the First Church of Christ Scientist (1967), which revealed an
affinity for the work of the Swedish architect Sigurd Lewerentz. The work
of Lewerentz and the American architect Louis Kahn influenced the work
of Inger and Johannes Exner, especially Nørrland Church (1966–70) and
Islev Church (1967–70). The Exners went on to develop a greater personal expression in the Church of the Resurrection
(1984), Lyng Church (1994), Skæring Church (1994), and an extensive restoration of
Koldinghus Castle between 1972 and 1974.
At the end of the 1960s, a number of monolithic buildings inspired by the affiliation of
architects known as Team X and their concern for adaptable structures and rough
materials appeared in Denmark, including Gehrdt Bornebusch, Max Brüel, and Jørgen
Selchau’s Holbæk Teachers College (1967) and Esbjerg Teachers College (1967–73) and
Friis and Moltke’s Risskov County High School (1968–69), Danish Contractors
Association School (1967–68), and Scanticon Training Center (1967–69). The most
refined building constructed in this idiom was Erik Christian Sørenson’s Viking Ship
Museum (1967–68), which is supported by an elegantly proportioned, roughly formed
concrete structure.
Entries A–F 673
In the 1970s, a series of notable churches were constructed in Denmark, including
Friis and Moltke’s Ellevang Church (1973–74), C.F.Møller’s Ravnsbjerg Church (1975–
76), and Johan Otto von Spreckelsen’s churches at Vangede (1974) and Stavsholt (1979–
81), both of which reveal the influence of Louis Kahn. One of the most significant
religious buildings to appear during this period was Jørn Utzon’s Bagsværd Church
(1974–76), which reflects his preoccupation with prefabricated building components and
the relationship between free expression and clear structural logic.
A number of dense, low-rise housing developments were constructed during the
1970s. One of the most notable was Fællestegnestuen’s Flexibo housing development,
which incorporated a system of structure and light partitions that allowed residents to
adapt the location of the walls to their particular way of living. In 1978, Tegnestuen
Vandkunsten completed Tingården 1 and 2, which was the first public housing
development in which future users were consulted during the planning stage. Along with
Fællestegnestuen, Tegnestuen Vandkunsten has been influential in housing in Denmark
with projects such as Jystrup Savværk (1983–84), Garvergården (1986–88), and Diana’s
Have (1991–92).
The concern for housing extended into the 1980s and 1990s, resulting in many largescale
developments, including the Sandbakken housing development (1988–80) by
C.F.Møllers Tegnestue and the Dalgas Have development (1989–91) by Henning Larsens
Tegnestue. Larsen has made significant contributions to Danish architecture in the latter
half of the 20th century, beginning with the Glostrup Chapel and Crematorium (1960)
and the Vangebo and Saint Jørgens elementary schools (1960), designed in association
with Gehrdt Bornebusch, Max Brüel, and Jørgen Selchau. Like many other Danish
architects during this period, including Nielsen, Nielsen, and Nielsen (Holstebro
Congress and Cultural Center, 1990–91; Vingsted Center, 1993), Larsen’s work is
characterized by experimentation in a range of styles and the search for an appropriate
expression, from the postmodern buildings at Dalgas Have to the neomodernist BT
Building (1993–94) in Copenhagen.
The search for an appropriate expression and a defining style is evident in the new
urban quarters that have been constructed to provide housing and services. The new
neighborhood surrounding the Høje Taastrup station (1985-present) takes inspiration
from the work of Leon Kreir and employs traditional town-planning principles in an
attempt to provide an overall framework for development. Two major housing
exhibitions that resulted in new suburban centers, Blangstedgård (1987–88) and
Egebjerggård (1985–96), resulted in a range of individual structures that vary in quality
and bear little relation to each other or to the overall development plans.
Buildings that resulted from competitions during the late 1980s and early 1990s also
reveal the lack of a defining style that is characteristic of recent Danish architecture. In
1988, a competition was held for a new Museum of Modern Art to be built south of
Copenhagen. Completed in 1996 by Søren Robert Lund, this building is one of the few in
Denmark that appears to have been influenced by the briefly fashionable
deconstructivism. Two recent additions to major buildings in Copenhagen have resulted
from competitions in the 1990s: the Royal Library (1993–99) by Schmidt, Hammer, and
Lassen and the National Gallery (1998) by C.F.Møllers Tegnestue. Both of these
additions illustrate a current tendency to create buildings appearing as freestanding
objects that bear little relation to the immediate context.
Encyclopedia of 20th-century architecture 674
Whereas some architects have aggressively experimented with a range of styles
imported from abroad, others have quietly worked to develop an architecture devoid of
superficial effects. Of particular note are the summer cottage (1985–87) on the island of
Læsø, the Holstebro Art Museum (1981, addition 1991) by Hanne Kjærholm, and the
work of the firm Fogh and Følner, including the Bornholm Art Museum (1993), Egedal
Church (1990), and Tornbjerg Church (1994). Perhaps the most significant contributions
to the development of an architecture sympathetic to material and context have come
from Gerhdt Bornebusch, as evident in the Danish School of Forestry (1981–92) in
Nødebo, the extension and renovation of the National Museum (1990–92), and the
Danish Forest and Landscape Institute (1995).
Although 20th-century Danish architecture has been subject to influences from a
variety of countries, very few foreign architects have built in Denmark. It is interesting to
note that two major exceptions were both from Finnish architects: Alvar Aalto’s North
Jutland Art Museum and Heikkinen and Komonen’s European Film College (1992–93).
However, Danish architects established an impressive record of obtaining significant
commissions abroad during the latter half of the century, including Utzon’s Sydney
Opera House (1956–73) and National Assembly Building (1971–83) in Kuwait, Arne
Jacobsen’s St. Catherine’s College (1962) at Oxford, Henning Larsen’s Ministry of
Foreign Affairs (1980–84) in Riyadh, and Johan Otto von Spreckelsen’s Le Grande Arch
(1982–90) in Paris.
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