Figure Eight: A Look at One of Denmark’s Latest Developments

“When designing, we go through hundreds of ideas, layers and layers and layers until we come up with the final design,” said Kai Bergmann, an architect with BIG, a Copenhagen and New York-based firm during a presentation last fall. During the presentation he said it’s important to think of a building not only as an object but as a potential for public space. The firm’s design of the award-winning 8 House in Copenhagen is no exception. The 65,000-square-foot 8 House, which allows its residents to bike all the way from the street up to its 10th level penthouses, received the 2012 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Institute Honor Award for Architecture. The use of glazing in the bowtie-shaped, mixed-use building helps enhance natural light, creating bright, open spaces.

Photo by Dragor Luftfola

Commissioned by St. Frederikslund and Per Hopfner in 2006, the 8 House sits on the outer edge of the city as the southern most outpost of Orestad. Rather than a traditional block, the 8 House stacks all ingredients of an urban neighborhood into horizontal layers of typologies connected by a continuous promenade and cycling path up to the 10th floor.

“8 House is a three-dimensional neighborhood rather than an architectural object. An alley of 150 row houses stretches through the entire block and twists all the way from street level to the top and down again,” says Bjarke Ingels, founding partner of BIG. “Where social life, the spontaneous encounter and neighbor interaction traditionally is restricted to the ground level, the 8 House allows it to expand all the way to the top.”

Architects say 8 House uses size to its advantage by creating immense differences in height, providing a sense of community. The project is made up of 476 housing units, including apartments of varied sizes, penthouses and townhouses, as well as office spaces, in one single building.

Photo by Jens Lindhe

The façade windows of the row houses were supplied by Krone Vinduer, while Velfac supplied windows for the apartments. Eiler Thomsen Alufacader supplied windows for the office/retail portions. Architects say the glass, used in different shades of blue and green, controls sun and light transmittance. “The glass façades are optimized according to light and sun,” say the project leaders.

The AIA’s Institute Honor Awards are known as the profession’s highest recognition of works that exemplify excellence in architecture, interior architecture and urban design. The 8 House was selected from more than 700 total submissions; 27 recipients located throughout the world will be honored at the AIA 2012 National Convention and Design Exposition in Washington, D.C.

“Having established ourselves in New York City this past year we are honored that the AIA has given this great distinction to the 8 House, which is a further realized example of our approach called architectural alchemy–the idea that by mixing traditional ingredients, retail, row houses and apartments in untraditional ways–you create added value if not gold,” says Bjarke Ingels, founder and partner of BIG. “Housing projects are rarely brought out as world architecture. The fact that the 8 House has now achieved this honorable status can be seen as a symbol of a piece of architectural alchemy that works. Moreover, I am genuinely happy that our long and inspiring cooperation with Per Høpfner and St. Frederikslund is rewarded in the other parts of the world.”

The 8 House was previously awarded the World’s Best Residential Building at the 2011 World Architecture Festival in Barcelona and the Scandinavian Green Roof Award, among others. According to the architects, the project is Denmark’s largest private development ever undertaken.