Inside Danish Architecture – Kannikegården

by | 07. May 2018

Article | Inside Danish Architecture

Kannikegården, an award-winning new-build priory by Lundgaard & Tranberg Architects, is located in Denmark’s oldest existing town, Ribe, which was founded in the eighth century. The project sits in the public square which surrounds Ribe Cathedral, a beautiful and somewhat frankensteinian collage of architectural styles shaped by the building’s repeated restoration and redecoration across the centuries.

In 2000, a former commercial building across from the cathedral burned down and the local parochial church council decided to commission a cathedral priory in its place. Archaeologists later discovered the oldest Christian graves in Denmark and remnants of a brick refectory dining hall from the 12th century some 2.5m beneath the remains of the burnt building. When the competition brief was released, it stipulated that the ancient ruins were to be integrated into the new scheme. The name ‘Kannikegården’ is from the Latin ‘canonicus’, or priest of the covenant in a Catholic or Anglican Cathedral, in reference to the priests’ dining hall which was discovered on the site.

Lundgaard & Tranberg Architects’ winning proposal lifts the priory program above the ruins to create a publically accessible glazed exhibition space below. Centrally pivoting thick oak planks, which can be rotated by hand, filter the light which enters the exhibition space. Steel suspended walkways enable visitors to trace the walls of the ancient ruins, whilst tightly spaced roughly hewn oak beams form the lamella ceiling above.

A homogenous gabled roof structure, wrapped in clay tiles, rests above the ruins on rough, board-formed concrete columns. The 63cm x 35cm by 3cm thick clay shingles overlap like fish scales to form the building’s shell and square window frames. The gutter is hidden behind the clay facade and held in place with thick bent steel clamps, reminiscent of ship construction. On the southern side of the exhibition space, a walled courtyard is created which is concealed from the public square.

Kannikegården subtly pays homage to the site’s rich history through its archetypal form, rugged details and brownish-red hues reminiscent of the region’s characteristic brick houses. This is juxtaposed to the building’s crisp metal verge and ridge line which exhibits a a contemporary architectural language. The building has been well received and was a finalist for the Mies van der Rohe Award in 2017.