Mountain Dwellings Urban Development in Copenhagen

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July 21, 2009
Originally published in The City Life
as
Think Big
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  • 
  Completed in 2008, the Mountain Dwellings is the second of BIG’s three projects in Ørestad, a new neighborhood in Copenhagen where development is attracting many new inhabitants. The result does looks like a mountain—hence the building’s name and the inspiration for the mural of Mount Everest that adorns the 82-foot-high facade.

    Completed in 2008, the Mountain Dwellings is the second of BIG’s three projects in Ørestad, a new neighborhood in Copenhagen where development is attracting many new inhabitants. The result does looks like a mountain—hence the building’s name and the inspiration for the mural of Mount Everest that adorns the 82-foot-high facade.

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  Over the garage, each unit sits on its own level, with nothing directly above or below—in effect making every apartment a penthouse.

    Over the garage, each unit sits on its own level, with nothing directly above or below—in effect making every apartment a penthouse.

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  Every apartment has a terrace measuring around 1,000 square feet, with both private and semipublic spaces. “The cool thing about a garden is it’s yours,” says architect Bjarke Ingels. “If you’re on the wooden part, you can suntan in your bikini bottom or go without pants.” If, however, you walk out onto the artificial turf, you can see what’s going on with your neighbors (and they can see you).

    Every apartment has a terrace measuring around 1,000 square feet, with both private and semipublic spaces. “The cool thing about a garden is it’s yours,” says architect Bjarke Ingels. “If you’re on the wooden part, you can suntan in your bikini bottom or go without pants.” If, however, you walk out onto the artificial turf, you can see what’s going on with your neighbors (and they can see you).

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  The wood-clad balconies of the private side of the building offset the futuristic punched-metal mural of Mount Everest on the facades facing the Metro tracks. "It's a schizophrenic sensibility," Ingels says. "The south is purely organic, and the north is strictly contemporary."

    The wood-clad balconies of the private side of the building offset the futuristic punched-metal mural of Mount Everest on the facades facing the Metro tracks. "It's a schizophrenic sensibility," Ingels says. "The south is purely organic, and the north is strictly contemporary."

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  Not content to just build a regular parking lot behind the Himalayan facade, Ingels created a high-ceilinged, five-story, concrete-and-steel “car cathedral—to celebrate car culture.” Throughout, the French artist Victor Ash varnished the concrete walls with gray-on-gray murals of wild animals—a wolf, a moose—standing atop piles of wrecked automobiles.

    Not content to just build a regular parking lot behind the Himalayan facade, Ingels created a high-ceilinged, five-story, concrete-and-steel “car cathedral—to celebrate car culture.” Throughout, the French artist Victor Ash varnished the concrete walls with gray-on-gray murals of wild animals—a wolf, a moose—standing atop piles of wrecked automobiles.

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  The halls connecting the garage to the residences are covered in brightly painted aluminum treatment associated with cars, not buildings. The colors move, symbolically, from earth to sky: green, yellow, orange, dark orange, hot pink, purple, bright blue. “Buildings are never brightly colored,” says Ingels, explaining the thinking behind this stepladder rainbow, “but cars often are.”

    The halls connecting the garage to the residences are covered in brightly painted aluminum treatment associated with cars, not buildings. The colors move, symbolically, from earth to sky: green, yellow, orange, dark orange, hot pink, purple, bright blue. “Buildings are never brightly colored,” says Ingels, explaining the thinking behind this stepladder rainbow, “but cars often are.”

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  As there's no lobby, the building is always entered through the garage. If residents arrive by foot or bicycle, they can ascend the Mountain Dwellings by walking up a set of metal stairs that climb from south to north over the parking lot.

    As there's no lobby, the building is always entered through the garage. If residents arrive by foot or bicycle, they can ascend the Mountain Dwellings by walking up a set of metal stairs that climb from south to north over the parking lot.

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  Residents can also ride Denmark's only funicular-style inclined elevator (imported from Switzerland, naturally) to reach their level of residence or drive up to their floor and cross a suspended industrial metal-clad gangplank to reach their hallway.

    Residents can also ride Denmark's only funicular-style inclined elevator (imported from Switzerland, naturally) to reach their level of residence or drive up to their floor and cross a suspended industrial metal-clad gangplank to reach their hallway.

  • 
  Danes surround themselves with bright colors and beautiful items, as they spend much of their time at home due to the country's high cost of living and its lengthy winters.

    Danes surround themselves with bright colors and beautiful items, as they spend much of their time at home due to the country's high cost of living and its lengthy winters.

  • 
  The challenge of building in Ørestad is that the area lacks human scale and urban elements, save the Metro stop. "When you build where there’s absolutely nothing, you can’t expect too much from your surroundings," Ingels says. "You essentially have to create as much quality in your immediate vicinity as you possibly can so there’s a possibility that what you do becomes a place."

    The challenge of building in Ørestad is that the area lacks human scale and urban elements, save the Metro stop. "When you build where there’s absolutely nothing, you can’t expect too much from your surroundings," Ingels says. "You essentially have to create as much quality in your immediate vicinity as you possibly can so there’s a possibility that what you do becomes a place."

  • 
  David Zahle (who works at BIG), his wife Maria Rich, and their children moved into the Mountain Dwellings in 2008. Rich’s father made their dining table in the ’70s, and her mother made the wall-mounted shag rug during the same period.

    David Zahle (who works at BIG), his wife Maria Rich, and their children moved into the Mountain Dwellings in 2008. Rich’s father made their dining table in the ’70s, and her mother made the wall-mounted shag rug during the same period.

  • 
  Zahle and Rich’s home has just one bedroom, so they put up a wall (hidden by the bookshelf) and sliding door to create a master bedroom at one end of the glass-walled main room. Thanks to modern insulation technology, “there is almost no difference between outside and inside,” says Zahle.

    Zahle and Rich’s home has just one bedroom, so they put up a wall (hidden by the bookshelf) and sliding door to create a master bedroom at one end of the glass-walled main room. Thanks to modern insulation technology, “there is almost no difference between outside and inside,” says Zahle.

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  White walls, oak floors, and wooden window panes exude a calm, Danish-modern vibe. A stainless steel kitchen island, designed by BIG, is lit by Cecilie Manz’s Caravaggio lights.

    White walls, oak floors, and wooden window panes exude a calm, Danish-modern vibe. A stainless steel kitchen island, designed by BIG, is lit by Cecilie Manz’s Caravaggio lights.

  • 
  The kids occupy the bedroom, which is small but generously daylit. Of the modest overall size of the place, Zahle says the layout belies the square footage, adding that his kids love it because they can run around outside in the summer.

    The kids occupy the bedroom, which is small but generously daylit. Of the modest overall size of the place, Zahle says the layout belies the square footage, adding that his kids love it because they can run around outside in the summer.

  • 
  Ample space for entertaining is a must-have for Danish dwellers; The high cost of living and exorbitant price for a meal out on the town means dinner parties are regular events in Danish households.

    Ample space for entertaining is a must-have for Danish dwellers; The high cost of living and exorbitant price for a meal out on the town means dinner parties are regular events in Danish households.

  • 
  Airy, open, light-filled apartments with walls of glass look out onto 970-square-foot terraces edged in artificial turf. Unlike the too-public, near-exhibitionist qualities of the experimental VM housing next door, Mountain Dwellings all have private terraces and suburbanesque garden spaces.

    Airy, open, light-filled apartments with walls of glass look out onto 970-square-foot terraces edged in artificial turf. Unlike the too-public, near-exhibitionist qualities of the experimental VM housing next door, Mountain Dwellings all have private terraces and suburbanesque garden spaces.

  • 
  The deck can be accessed by the living rooms and both bedrooms and, in combination with the floor-to-ceiling glass walls, greatly expands the size of the apartment.

    The deck can be accessed by the living rooms and both bedrooms and, in combination with the floor-to-ceiling glass walls, greatly expands the size of the apartment.

  • 
  Though the Mountain Dwellings is ten minutes from the city center, "you're completely alone with the sky and with nature," Zahle says. "It's not really like an apartment, it's more like a summer house on a hillside."

    Though the Mountain Dwellings is ten minutes from the city center, "you're completely alone with the sky and with nature," Zahle says. "It's not really like an apartment, it's more like a summer house on a hillside."

  • 
  BIG employed its theory and practice of "architectural alchemy"--combining elements to turn architectural lead into gold--to lift the residential units with the parking structure to create the silvery Mountain Dwellings.

    BIG employed its theory and practice of "architectural alchemy"--combining elements to turn architectural lead into gold--to lift the residential units with the parking structure to create the silvery Mountain Dwellings.

  • 
  The VM Houses (the two buildings on the right) opened in Ørestad in 2005, with the Mountain Dwellings (left) following in 2008. Up next in the neighborhood: The firm's BIG House (or Figure Eight building) is scheduled to be completed in 2010.

    The VM Houses (the two buildings on the right) opened in Ørestad in 2005, with the Mountain Dwellings (left) following in 2008. Up next in the neighborhood: The firm's BIG House (or Figure Eight building) is scheduled to be completed in 2010.

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