Half Dose #45: Holbæk Kasba

Holbæk is a city in Denmark's Sjælland region, sitting on the banks of a fjord. Not surprisingly, the city has an active seaport with a harbor for a ferry crossing to Norway, among other uses. When the Danish Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) was confronted with a project on this waterfront they asked, "how do you combine the harbor areas on the big scale with intimacy and sensory experiences on the human scale?"

[view of model looking NW, with their Hotel in Holbæk Harbor in the top right]

This query into finding a balance between the large and small scales, the urban and the architectural, the abstract and the phenomenological, is one that could easily be applied to other urban areas; in effect it could be the question for architects facing ever-larger projects in cities. Here the program is for 13,500 sm (145,000 sf) of primarily residential space, composed of 100 units divided equally among 2br and 3br types.

[modifying the "ideal" to the local]

BIG started with a generic grid of equal-sized plots of consistent height, "a dense and low kasbah of dwellings that have been twisted and turned thus creating a labyrinth of small open spaces and hiding places for life, play and socializing between the houses." This consideration of the space between buildings -- clearly more interesting in the modified plan than the generic grid -- is something Jan Gehl would definitely appreciate.

[overhead view of model with north to the bottom]

Additionally the somewhat regular or patterned grouping of buildings that is the outcome of the twisting and turning (evident in the model view above) is built atop an artificial hill created by a parking garage below the houses. This affords the residents of the high, middle units views over the next tier, who have views over the next tier, etc.

[different unit types and their plan distribution]

The residential units are composed of complex, interlocking pieces that afford most of the units different frontages, and therefore multiple exposures, views and relationships to the spaces between the buildings.

[in the kasbah]

Architecturally, the project needs development. The flat white boxes with large openings convey ideas of simplicity, transparency and connection, but the architects shouldn't forget that the "intimacy and sensory experiences on the human scale" includes the tactile quality of the walls and other architectural surfaces. Nevertheless it's easy to grasp a sense of the awareness one would have moving up and down the slopes between the buildings; as well one can imagine the smells wafting from the different houses, competing with each other in the Danish kasbah.

["nighttime" view of model]

:: Bjarke Ingels Group - BIG (All images from the architect's page)
:: BIG News Blog (added to sidebar under blogs::offices)


  1. That is actually kind of really cute...who doesnt love a fake hill created by a parking garage?

  2. i really enjoy the idea of the planning pattern being interrupted on the peripheries by a somewhat arbitrary box. It implies that the patterned houses could go on indefinitely based upon physical boundaries, rather than intangible limits like property lines, etc.

  3. I have always been a fan of B.I.G. Here is a link to an interesting analysis of there work too.


  4. o could not imagine explaining the directions to exact unit when setting up an appointment, or even explaining directions on the mls(multiple listing service) i bet it would be kinda neat, maybe I would even come and watch myself, collect a laugh or two. great post nonetheless. designatedagents.com


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