Printing Plant

Printing Plant in Slagelse, Denmark by  Søren Robert Lund Arkitekter, 2001

A small practice based in Copenhagen, Søren Robert Lund Arkitekter MAA PAR opened after winning the competition for The Arken Museum in their home country of Denmark. Still their most recognizable building, the museum established Lund as an architect able to handle a relatively large commission with a small practice (currently eight employees) while achieving a high level of design. That building's datum is a long, sloping wall with heterogeneous forms and planes radiating from this main spine. At the new printing factory for the newspaper Berlingske Tidende in Slagelse, the building's center is two metal-clad sculptural forms that contain the printing hall, with adjacent low-slung wooden boxes.

Naturally the printing hall recalls the recent work of Frank Gehry, though here the forms are offset by the adjacent, minimal forms, juxtapositions of which Mr. Gehry has recently departed from using. The two forms indicate the continuation of the orthogonal in the plan, with flat walls perpendicular to the main axis and the curves taking place at the elevations instead. Unfortunately the relationship between these two pieces is not addressed; the two materials and forms merely meet without affecting each other, most evident in the image on the following page.

This oversight is forgiven when one notices the high level of design brought to such a typically mundane, functional building: an industrial plant. In the United States, James Stewert Polshek achieved a similar transcendence with the New York Times Printing Plant in Queens, New York. In each case the clients realized the importance of the building's presence and its ability to become a marketing tool. At a time when advertisers need to find new and more novel ways to reach an over image-drenched populace, architecture is increasingly being turned to as a viable, and successful, option. Architecture as advertising is not surprising to anyone familiar with architecture's ability to tell stories since ancient times.

The primary difference between Polshek's and Lund's buildings is surface, the former using it as a billboard while the latter leaves it unadorned. Of course each approach is related to its form and context, but the printing plant in Denmark indicates that advertising need not be type and image. Which brings us full circle back to Mr. Gehry and his museum in Bilbao, Spain, showing the world the power of architecture to attract people, and hype, through (unconventional) form. In a way Lund's design for Berlingske Tidende attempts the same with the results to be seen.