Home   Architects   Schools   Objects   Library












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 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 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 & Weitling.

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.

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.

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.



Sennott R.S. Encyclopedia of twentieth century architecture, Vol.1.  Fitzroy Dearborn., 2005.





A comprehensive account of 20th-century architecture in Denmark has yet to be published in English; the most up-to-date works remains Faber (1963) and Faber (1968). For information on individual architects, see Drew, Faber (1964), Faber (1991), Jørgensen, and Solaguren-Beascoa de Corral.

Drew, Philip (editor), Sydney Opera House: Jørn Utzon, London: Phaidon Press, 1995

Faber, Tobias, Dansk arkitektur, Copenhagen: Det Danske Selskab, 1963; as A History of Danish Architecture, translated by Frederic R.Stevenson, Copenhagen: Det Danske Selskab, 1978

Faber, Tobias, Arne Jacobsen, Stuttgart, Germany: Verlag Gerd Hatje, London: Tiranti, and New York: Praeger, 1964

Faber, Tobias, New Danish Architecture, New York: Praeger, and London: Architectural Press, 1968

Faber, Tobias, Jørn Utzon, Houses in Fredensborg, Berlin: Ernst and Sohn, 1991

Fisker, Kay, and Francis R.Yerbury (editors), Modern Danish Architecture, London: Benn, and New York: Scribner, 1927

Jørgensen, Lisbet Balslev, Jørgen Sestoft, and Morten Lund, Vilhelm Laur itzen: en moderne a rkitekt, s.l.: Bergiafonden and Aristo, 1994; as Vilhelm Lauritzen: A Moder n Architect, translated by Martha Gaber Abrahamsen, s.l.: Bergiafonden and Aristo, 1994

Lind, Olaf, Copenhagen Architecture Guide, Copenhagen: Arkitektens Forlag, 1996

Møller, Erik, Jens Lindhe, and Kjeld Vindum, Aarhus City Hall, Copenhagen: Danish Architectural Press, 1991

Norberg-Schulz, Christian, and Tobias Faber (editors), Utzon: Mallorca, Copenhagen: Arkitektens Forlag, 1996

Skriver, Poul Erik (editor), Moderne dansk arkitektur, Copenhagen: Dansk-Norsk Foundation, 1966; as Guide to Modern Danish Architecture, translated by David Hohnen, Copenhagen: Arkitektens Forlag, 1969

Solaguren-Beascoa de Corral, Félix, Arne Jacobsen, Barcelona: Gili, 1989

Utzon, Jørn, Sydney Opera House: Sydney, Australia, 1957–73, edited by Yukio Futagawa, Tokyo: A.D.A.Edita, 1980

Utzon, Jørn, Church at Bagsvaerd, near Copenhagen, Denmark, 1973–76, edited by Yukio Futagawa, Tokyo: A.D.A.Edita, 1981

Woodward, Christopher, Copenhagen, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998














New Projects



Support us