"It’s for adventurous types who understand that luxury isn’t about gold taps," says Mads Møller of Danish architecture firm Arcgency. Indeed, if you were on the hunt for a luxury experience, spending the night in a disused coal crane might not be your first choice—but Arcgency’s Krane, a one-room boutique getaway, is exactly that.
The Krane sits on the quayside of a dockland peninsula, just to the north of Copenhagen’s city centre. It’s one of two cranes owned by cargo operator-turned-property developer Klaus Kastbjerg. The first was transformed into a meeting space over a decade ago by Jørn Utzon, the architect of Sydney Opera House, and his son Kim, as part of a larger dockside development. But the Krane stands in glorious isolation.
"We talked about how we could make it into something that people would visit, something useful," says Møller. "We started out talking about another meeting space and then it just escalated…Where shall we put the bathroom? If we have a bathroom should we have a shower? If we have a shower would it be possible to sleep there?"
On the first level of the substantial structure is a conference space, and above that a tiny spa and terrace. These are gently disguised so as to blend in with the crane’s dramatic industrial silhouette. "We were always thinking about maintaining the look of an operational crane, so it wouldn’t disappear and become a building." The meeting room is a near-invisible glass box, and the spa is an inscrutable grey cube where the crane’s counterweight once was.
The guest room occupies two cabins on the top level: a small one, where the driver once sat overseeing the unloading of coal, and a larger structure that housed cables and electrical equipment. "It’s almost like a small summer house," says Møller of this second cabin, now the bedroom and living space. "It’s kind of odd, and we liked the oddness about it so we retained it."
Inside, the guest room is clad entirely in black-stained fir, with black leather furniture. It’s a strongly charismatic—even aggressive—theme for such a naturally stark space, where you might expect an architect to reach instead for untreated timber and softer tones, to warm things up. The effect is to focus everything on the light from outside and the view of the water.
"The first time we visited the crane," Møller explains, "we went into this space, and everything was covered with black, a combination of oil and coal dust. There was this little window where the glass was broken and you could see the water, and it was clear blue. So the idea was born: complete focus on what is outside."
But despite its industrial history and uncompromising décor, the Krane has an unexpected air of escapist fantasy: a true retreat, hidden away above the world. When Møller tried an overnight stay for himself, he brought his five-year-old daughter. "She said it was like the dream of having your own treehouse," he says. "It has that sort of appeal. It’s playful, and it’s something that intrigues even a child." The crane arm no longer turns, but has been fixed facing west so visitors can watch the sunset over the water, and to complete the fantasy, the steps lift up like a drawbridge at night.
Seen here, the Bottega Veneta Fall/Winter 2018 collection shot in the Krane—the combination of leather, wood, stone and steel in the hotel echoing the varied textures and tactile materials of the season. Inspired by life in New York City, the collection features graphic motifs, which recall the structures of the city, and luxurious styles designed for lounging at home to escape the chaos of urban life.
Get the Dwell Travel Newsletter
Start exploring far-flung design destinations, the newest boutique hotels, and well-designed bars and restaurants perfect for the modern jetsetter.