The Mountain: housing complex in Copenhagen

BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group,

Copenhagen, Denmark,

Urban Architecture, Housing, Residences,


Two young Danish architectural studios have come up with a bold plan for an intensive residential development just outside Copenhagen. On the basis of the formal model of the mountain, which gives the complex its name, they take advantage of its natural peculiarities to create an appropriate microclimate for the residential complex on the slope and the parking lots and service areas that form its base.

The Mountain: housing complex in Copenhagen Some years ago Bjarke Ingels wrote a thesis about opportunities for innovation in Denmark’s big residential districts. The studio recently had an extraordinary opportunity to apply its solutions in a housing complex in ?restad, a district on the outskirts of Copenhagen characterised by banal, repetitive urban planning based on a chequerboard model.
Like the suburbs of other European capitals, ?restad was having trouble reconciling demand for high density housing with its need for greenery. A private client asked the project team led by Bjarke Ingels and including the BIG and JDS studios, both renowned for their visionary proposals, to produce a parking lot and a residential block. The architects imagined rotating the residential block on the parking lot so that it became its base, distributing all the homes on the top level of the complex so that they would be exposed to the sun and the landscape.
The desire to give all the homes lots of air, light and views of the landscape and the need to structure the parking lot so that each family unit can park right under its own home led to the mountain set-up. In a departure from the usual multi-level underground parking lot, in this case the parking spaces start at ground level, lit up by natural light screened by perforated aluminium panels covering the walls to ensure good natural ventilation. The height, up to 16 metres at some points, and the presence of a glass elevator crossing the space diagonally in place of the classic closed-in vertical elevator complete the dramatic impact of this imposing entrance which solves the problem of claustrophobia inherent in the usual type of parking lot with low ceilings.
The houses stand along the slope, 80 single-level homes with green roofs, wooden terraces and glass facades: the repetitiveness of the modules is interrupted by large green spaces that naturally differentiate them as well as carefully chosen finishes such as the Jatoba wood used in the window and door frames.
The project does of course have an undeniable figurative relationship with many past experiments in large housing complexes, from Forte Quezzi, nicknamed The Snake, in Genoa to the Sails in Secondigliano, and to Villeneuve Loubet on the Azure Coast: here too the complex has been nicknamed in a way that underlines its iconic image. What suggests a rosy future for this residential complex is its scale: the mountain does not consist of 5 blocks up to half a kilometre long, like The Snake, it does not house 6453 people like The Sails, and it is not 18 floors high like our French example– it balances buildings and greenery, offers direct access to the homes and thus neutralises the effect of isolation from one's surroundings that can trigger a process of degradation when the inhabitants feel that they do not belong to their own homes.
The Mountain seems to have overcome the sense of metropolitan anonymity in favour of architectural identity, for right after it opened the organisers of the famous electronic music festival Distortion asked if they could hold the festival’s closing concert in its parking lot.

by Mara Corradi

Design: BIG (Bjarke Ingels)
Project leaders: Finn N?rkj?r, Jakob Lange, Jan Borgstr?m, Henrick Poulsen
Collaborators: Annette Jensen, Dariusz Bojarski, Dennis Rasmussen, Eva Hviid-Nielsen, Joao Vieira Costa, J?rn Jensen, Karsten V. Vestergaard, Karsten Hammer Hansen, Leon Rost, Louise Steffensen, Malte Rosenquist, Mia Frederiksen, Ole Elkj?r-Larsen, Ole Nannberg, Roberto Rosales Salazar, Rong Bin, Sophus S?bye, S?ren Lambertsen, Wataru Tanaka
Co-designers: JDS, Moe & Br?dsgaard, Freddy Madsen, SLA
Structural design: Moe & Brodsgaard
Location: Copenhagen, ?restad district (Denmark)
Client: H?pfner A/S, Danish Oil Company A/S
Builder: DS Elcobyg A/S /PH Montage
Roofing: Montak
Wooden terraces: Drewcom
Northern and western facades made of perforated aluminium panelling: Nettoperforering
Surface area: 33,000 m2
Completion of work: 2008
Outer facade of Reynobond (aluminium sandwich elements with a polyethylene core)
Jatoba wooden windows in apartments, wood and aluminium in commercial spaces
Oak flooring in the apartments, with underfloor heating


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