VM Houses

by | 13. Jul 2012

Feature | Residential

Photo: arcspace

The VM Houses, shaped like a V and an M when seen from above, is the first residential project to be built in Ørestaden; a new quarter of Copenhagen.

The growing neighborhood is connected to the center of the city by the new Metro system.

Photo: arcspace

The buildings are like a 3 dimensional Tetris game of people’s living units.
/Julien De Smedt, PLOT

The V House
The manipulated perimeter block is clearly defined in its four corners but opened internally and along the sides. The vis-à-vis with the neighbor is eliminated by pushing the slab in its center, ensuring diagonal views to the vast open fields around. The building volume provides optimal air, light and views to all flats. Balconies jut out like rows of jagged shark’s teeth on the south side.

Photo: arcspace

Photo: arcspace

Photo: Tobias Toyberg

All apartments have a double-height space to the north, and wide panoramic views to the south. Access to the apartments is via exterior walkway connected to one of the three stair and elevator towers, placed at either end, and in the break of the V.

Photo: arcspace

Photo: arcspace

The M House
The logic of the diagonal slab utilized in the V house is broken down in smaller portions for the M house. In this project the typology of the unite d’habitation of Le Corbusier is reinterpreted and improved: The central corridors, connecting all floors and apartments, are short and get light from both ends – like bullet holes penetrating through the building.

Individual terraces are all on the south facing side of the building. The roof terrace is reached from the central corridors.

Photo: arcspace

Photo: arcspace

Photo: arcspace

As the first residential complex in the area it was important for the architects to create an inviting environment. To leave room for life around the buildings they lifted the V House on five meter high columns, opening the courtyard to the park area on the south side, and broke down the facades with niches and angles, creating a series of informal meeting places.

Photo: arcspace

Photo: arcspace

The exterior of the M House is clad in floating panels of anodized aluminum. A large ground-floor mural of Høpfner, the developer, is done in standard bathroom.

Photo: arcspace

Instead of the usual high-rise apartments the units are designed as loft spaces, each different both in width and height, letting residents design their own individual apartments.

Photo: Niko Møller

Photo: Niko Møller

We live in a world where individualism has a larger resonance than previously. Diversity is well accepted, even desired. People who live in a housing complex should have the same access to individuality.

/Julien De Smedt

Drawing courtesy Plot

Drawing courtesy Plot

VM took shape based on an initial rendering of the simplest configuration for the square building site, bordered by two canals, one rectangle at each end of the block with a courtyard space in between.

To orient all the apartments toward the landscape, and take advantage of both evening and morning sun entering the courtyard, the architects angled the first building which ensured a different form for the building next to it.

Drawing courtesy Plot

Drawing courtesy Plot

Drawing courtesy Plot

Drawing courtesy Plot

Because of the varying zoning height requirements at either end of the site, the V House slopes and the M House steps upward.

Photo: arcspace

The VM buildings were awarded the Forum prize in February 2006. The prize, awarded by the architecture and design magazine Forum, is given to the best Nordic building or interior design.

Our task as architects was to make the best of what we discovered. We have been rational in relation to the space available. Instead of idealizing the practical, we have chosen to optimize the actuality.


Bjarke Ingels (BIG) and Julien De Smedt (JDS) collaborated on a project, dubbed the Mountain, located adjacent to VM. Like its neighbor, Mountain is predicated on making the best available use of the peculiar requirements of the site. In this case the apartments are to be built on top of a massive parking structure (which will also service the VM Houses). The result is a huge half-pyramid with 11 stories of cascading terraced apartments.

Photo: arcspace


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