An Ugly Façade into Green Social Spaces: Ørsted Gardens Apartments designed by Tegnestuen Lokal

November 12, 2021



Maria Rebecca Abaya

During the 1960s towards the 1970s, the modernism movement started to boom all the way to brutalist designs. Often, simple, and straightforward building materials are used such as concrete, bricks, stones, metal, and wood. Also, designs are honest and focus only on the main function of the building. Though the aesthetics are mostly conveniently timeless, there’s one factor that brutalism of the 60s/70s mostly lacks and that’s the proper integration of sustainable design solutions. Because of this, such buildings like the old, pre-renovated state of the Ørsted Gardens are just allowed to decay over the years and just be branded as one with having the ugliest façade.

The Ørsted Gardens apartment building, located in the municipality of Frederiksberg in Denmark, is one great example of elevating the status quo of façade renovations. It’s not only about getting a “facelift” but rather extracting the maximum design potentials, extending the building’s life span, and serving its users with an optimum living experience. This is what Architects Christopher Carlsen and Morten Bang of Tegnestuan Lokal had focused on in developing the final design for the renovation.

“If we want to achieve a sustainable future, we cannot rely on only building sustainable buildings going forward. We need to have a visionary method of transforming and adapting existing buildings to meet our changing needs,” says design team.

The façade’s architecture took a strong lead in the idea of creating a holistic environment where the aesthetics and social needs are both met. The original building was a basic concrete box with narrow balconies that only allows residents to pass thru to get to their apartments. There’s no room for social interaction and thus limiting the connection between neighbors in the entire building. Another issue is that these narrow balconies or the swallow passages were damaged by rainwater due to the building’s age and badly need renovation.

Pre-Renovated State
Post Construction

The renovation program included adding a new layer to the front of the building, transforming the façade into a more contemporary look. Keeping in mind the resident’s social needs, the new layer is not just another flat curtain wall but rather pockets of spaces, a series of semi-private balconies where residents can lounge around and enjoy the morning sun. These balconies are positioned at an angle and are fully covered with operable glass that makes the space more user-friendly at various times of the year.

Another important design feature is the integration of natural greens in the semi-private balconies. Plant boxes are added embedded on the flooring, providing spaces for urban farming. Also, horizontal wooden slats are attached on one side of the angled balconies allowing greens as such climbing plants and flowers to grow more and crawl on the wooden slats. In a way, this approach makes the new building have a more dynamic and living façade. For more green spaces, there’s ample roof garden for everyone who lives in the building. And as for the building layout, the design maintained the original access, walkways, and apartment positions.

Completed in 2020, the previously dubbed “ugliest façade” with its monotony, the Ørsted Gardens apartment building is now a welcoming dynamic residential building, full of life with its sustainable and green social spaces. Another important factor on the added protrusion is that it acts as a buffer from the heavy traffic noise from the main road. The overall project also included the renovation of the commercial spaces on the ground floor, turning the old gas station into a supermarket – which is very beneficial to the residents living above.

Article Credits: Drawings courtesy of Tegnestuen Lokal; Images courtesy of Hampus Berndtson ©

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