Located in South Ørestad, just outside Copenhagen, the huge 8 House complex is not only a landmark building in itself; it also heralds the profound urban development this peripheral area will undergo, linked as it is to the city centre by trunk roads and underground railway (for an overview of Copenhagen’s metropolitan area revitalization and urban expansion programme, see The Plan 039 on Urban Development). The complex designed by architect practice BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) is a radical departure from the extensive, segmented suburban housing estate to the east, comprising small residential units each with their own tiny garden. The underlying concept behind 8 House is to mirror the intricate, articulated urban fabric of the inner city in an outlying district, reproducing the same kind of volume density, extensive commercial space and civic centre as in a bustling city. The complex therefore caters for a whole range of different residential typologies and has a huge surface area given over to commercial activities.
Despite the accentuated density, volumes appear airy and luminous. They are a new, more contemporary take on traditional urban living patterns, combining architectural elements ensuring comfortable living environments with the intimate nature of the traditionally enclosed urban nucleus. Here urban living goes hand in hand with quality in terms of light, space and performance attributes of every dwelling unit.
Like any dense urban fabric, the complex provides areas for socialisation and interaction in a civic centre located between the commercial and green areas in the huge inner courts enclosed by the massive structures. The ground-level circulation routes inside the complex are repeated on the topmost level.
Shaped like a gigantic figure 8 lying on a north-south axis, the complex is 230 m long and 110 m wide with 11 aboveground storeys. A community centre of some 500 sq m lies at the centre of the figure of 8 where the two strands intersect. Height is offset by sloping roofs. On the side facing the water, the linear blocks are reflected in the water and the grass-covered roof slopes sharply to the first storey. The theme is repeated less dramatically in other sections where the roof slopes more gently to accommodate the different heights. The same geometry is repeated on the elevations with a medley of different levels, projecting elements, skewed angles and bow windows. They form variegated frames for the large glazed lights on all façades, clad in metal panels.
Functions in this all-enveloping urban project lie stratified in the same way our historic cities have been built up over the years by many successive layers.
Commercial and tertiary activities cover 10,000 ground-level sq m as in any urban setting. The different housing units are on the upper floors: 475 units for a total of 50,000 sq m usable surface area divided into dwellings ranging from 65 to 144 sq m reflecting the many different contemporary households catered for on an home-occupier or rental basis.
Grouped around the vertical communication shafts that modulate the overall structure, these residential units are layered horizontally. The two levels given over to duplex units form equalitarian, rationalist, modular blocks. They are sandwiched between layers of various-sized apartments. On the top floor, the duplex penthouses have an elegant metal structure staircase. Whatever their size, all dwelling units are democratically assured equal status in terms of luminosity and refinement of the interior spaces and fittings.