8 House: BIG’s 21 century urban living

Last century’s modern thinkers founds new ways to house city dwellers – some of the solutions proved not so successful in the long term. How to house twenty first-century urbanites is at the heart of Danish architect Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)’s 8 House scheme just completed on the outskirts of Copenhagen.

8 House proposes a fresh way of urban existence where the ease of suburban life is fused with the energy of a big city, where business and housing co-exist, and where common areas and facilities merge with personal life.

With views overlooking Copenhagen Canal and Kalvebod Fælled’s protected open spaces, the project, for client St Frederikslund Holding, is a 60,000sqm mixed-use building – a hybrid between shops, offices, apartments and 150 town houses.

Instead of dividing the different habitation and trade functions of the building into separate blocks, BIG has spread out the various functions horizontally. The apartments are placed at the top while the commercial programme unfolds at the base of the building. ‘We are exploiting that they have deeper floor plates than the residential spaces so you get extra space to accommodate the gardens,’ explains BIG founding architect Bjarke Ingels. ‘This is also exploiting that housing tend to enjoy daylight and views but offices don’t.’

BIG was inspired by classic townhouses and the open, democratic nature of functional architecture for the design of the accommodation which includes apartments of varied sizes, penthouses and townhouses with small gardens and pathways to encourage outdoor communication.

8 House’s layout encourages its inhabitants to bike all the way from the ground floor to the top, moving alongside townhouses with gardens winding through an urban perimeter block. ‘We have created an almost mountain pass that extends from the street and moves up in a figure 8 – hence the name,’ muses Ingels. ‘It becomes like a public space where people can bike, strol1 long or walk all the way from the street to the penthouse and back down. Therefore social life which is normally restricted to street level invades the three dimensional space of the urban block.’

The bow-shaped building creates two distinct spaces, separated by the centre of the bow, which hosts the communal facilities. At the very same spot, the building is penetrated by a 9m wide passage that connects the two surrounding city spaces: the park area to the west and the channel area to the east.

‘This is our take on creative, experimental architecture, which surprises and calls for a life based on a sense of community,’ says Ingels. ‘We have actually elevated the shared facilities around the height axis, so that gardens, trees and the system of paths follow the body of the structure all the way to the roof. On the rooftop, eleven stories up, these shared spaces culminate in a combined mountain path and rooftop garden. From here, you can enjoy the view of Kalvebod Fælled’s nature resort.’

BIG took part in a competition initiated by carmaker Audi over the summer to find solutions for urban mobility in 2030. Read our review published in Car Design News.

Read more about the architect here at BIG Talks Clean Cities and watch this video by CNN which gives more of an insight into BIG’s thinking.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

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