Monday, October 13, 2008

Mountain Dwellings

Mountain Dwellings in Copenhagen, Denmark by Bjarke Ingels Group

Photographs are by Mikael Colville-Andersen.

Copenhagen's Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) is a large office with a consistently creative output that questions preconceived notions about architecture. Process yields solutions that only marginally resemble the typologies their buildings fall into. As PLOT, Bjarke Ingels (with Julien De Smedt) created the VM Houses, a self-described improvement over Le Corbusier's Unite d'Habitation that is nothing if not striking, with angular balconies making an aggressive statement in Copenhagen's ├śrestad area.

The second generation of VM Houses is VM Bjerget, aka Mountain Dwellings, located across the street from its predecessor. Faced with a program of twice as much parking as dwelling units, the architects adopted a strategy of stacking the two functions and terracing both the 480 parking spaces and the 80 apartments to create an artificial hillside that absorbs the southern sun and acknowledges the neighbor's zig-zag. A gap between the parking and residential components makes the division and dependency clear.

The articulation of the the building's exterior is basically split into three parts: metal panels covered with imagery from Mount Everest for the parking, metal panels with windows for the perimeter of the units, and wood panels with glazing for the south-facing terraces. This makes for a building with a sort of split personality, one outward and one inward, one cold and one warm, one flat and one cascading. The end result is one that expresses the process, like a diagram in built form.

Perhaps the most unique result of the design process is the space between parking and apartments. A Piranesian space of columns, ramps, terraces floors, brightly painted ceilings and walls, and graphics recalling the exterior Everest print. It's a dynamic space generated by the gridded stacking of apartments over the ramping system below. Overall the design is as different from the first VM Houses as if it were done by a different firm, a testament to the creativity and variety of BIG.

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