What I was looking for -

I have always had an affinity for Danish design and the Danish Modern movement, appreciating the clean look, practicality and sense of craft, so the chance to see examples of the architecture and furniture that have been influenced by the movement first-hand was a great opportunity. In part, the aesthetic grew out of the “functionalism” movement that started around the late 1920‘s and early 30’s, when modernism was gaining popularity in Scandinavia and across Europe in general. Swedish architect Sven Backström described the transition in an article he wrote for a 1943 Architectural Review issue: Young architects were making a clean break from historical architecture and “false romanticism”, embracing new guidelines for the “new ideal human being”. Contemporary materials and new technologies were favored over traditional ones, and as Backström describes, “the architect was to be an engineer”.

Early recognition that the modern aesthetic lacked the coziness and livability of traditional architecture, and that the “new ideal human being” wasn’t really that different than the old, brought about a desire for tempering the modern aesthetic. Backström sums it up as a realization that “one had to build for the human beings as they are, and not as they ought to be...It is not sufficient for the architect to be an engineer; he must also be an artist.”

I was interested to see if this architecture that was based on functionalism, but rooted in Scandinavian craftsmanship, seemed different than the more global modernism and International Style.

What I found -­­

Around every corner, the thought and level of craft that goes into design in these cities is evident. It is easy to see the influences of early functionalism in the overall aesthetic of some of the modern as well as contemporary buildings we took a look at - a bold, simple idea that conveys its purpose through a clean aesthetic. But it is also apparent that there is an extra layer that could be attributed to the deep history of craftsmanship in these areas. There is an obvious display of craft in building details, and an acknowledgement of the human scale in all of the spaces we visited.

Royal Danish Playhouse (l) - Lundgaard & Tranberg Arkitekter; Copenhagen Opera House (r) – Henning Larsen; Inderhavnsbroen (foreground) - Studio Bednarski

Axel Towers; Lundgaard & Tranberg Arkitekter

Tietgen Dormitory; Lundgaard & Tranberg Arkitekter

Maersk Tower at University of Copenhagen; C. F. Møller Architects

Bioanalytikeruddannelsen college campus building

SALT Arena - Inspired by fish racks used to dry fish, this framework is intended to be filled with art - though the detail and craftsmanship make it art in its own right.

Private-Public interface