The Silo

by | 20. Sep 2017

Industrial | Project | Residential | Transformation

Exterior view. The Silo. © Rasmus Hjortshøj COAST

Completed in May 2017, The Silo is a part of the post-industrial development of Copenhagen’s new city district, Nordhavn. A major part of the design process was dedicated to updating the building’s exterior appearance, without sacrificing its industrial history. COBE’s solution was to envelop the concrete shell of the grain silo with an ‘angular faceted exterior facade made of galvanized steel’. This may seem like a bold move, if COBE’s intention was to retain the building’s personality and character, but contrary to what one may think upon seeing The Silo for the first time, this choice of material allows the building to retain its distinctive tall slender shape, without introducing a facade that feels out of place in a post-industrial site.

Exterior view before renovation. The Silo. © Rasmus Hjortshøj COAST

Exterior view under construction. The Silo. © Rasmus Hjortshøj COAST

Exterior view finished construction. The Silo. © Rasmus Hjortshøj COAST

The Silo’s new angular steel facade is without a doubt the most characteristic aspect of its transformation, as it is a big step away from the recognisable flat, matte concrete exterior of the original grain silo. Not only is the slender building’s updated facade more reflective than its predecessor, it also contains far more depth due to the protruding geometric balconies that belong to each individual apartment. As a result of COBE’s careful integration of these balconies into the facade itself, the building separates itself from its neighbours, most of which opt for a more typical architectural solution of extruding rectangular forms as balconies. In this way, the grain silo retains its distinct character and dramatic presence, but in a fresh form.

“The aim was to transform it from the inside out in such a way that its new inhabitants and the surrounding urban life would highlight the structure’s identity and heritage. Hence, the use of galvanized steel for the facade, which patinates in a raw way and retains the original harbour character and material feel, lending a roughness and raw beauty to the area, as in its industrial past.”
/Dan Stubbergaard, Founder and Creative Director of COBE

Interior view of apartment lobby. The Silo. © Rasmus Hjortshøj COAST

The interiors of the 38 unique apartments, on the other hand, have been kept as untouched as possible. Many have been preserved in their raw concrete form, however none are without panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows, leading out to their individual balconies. As a result of the grain silo’s diverse spatial divisions, COBE was able to create apartments ranging from 106m2 to 401m2, allowing for a variety of families with differing incomes and of various sizes to inhabit the same building. It is an invitation for a wider group of people to move to Nordhavn, largely as a result of the extraordinary spatial organisation of the silo that COBE was lucky enough to inherit.

This unique spatial organisation, along with varying floor heights up to seven meters, gives one a similar majestic experience as when viewing the building’s exterior, albeit on a smaller scale. The Silo’s interiors are a more direct glimpse into the building’s past, once one has taken a step beyond its steel skin. Highlighting the original grain silo’s dynamic spatial variation is COBE’s decision to make both the top and bottom levels public. On the 17th storey there is a restaurant, to be opened later this year, with the ground floor serving as an event space.

Interior view of an apartment. The Silo. © Rasmus Hjortshøj COAST

“Private housing and public functions ensure that the building remains active all day. The public functions at the top and bottom also ensure a multidimensional experience for the various users of the building.”
/Dan Stubbergaard, Founder and Creative Director of COBE

Stubbergaard’s description of a multidimensional experience can also be felt in their choice of material for the top level encapsulating a restaurant. Instead of the galvanised steel, that will earn a raw character over time, the 17th storey is surrounded by a glass box. Diners can experience a view over Copenhagen that one does not come by often, and passers-by enjoy a warm ‘lantern’ of light at night. Instead of projecting the building’s interiors during the day, the glass reflects its surroundings like a mirror. This visual interplay between private and public, interior and exterior is another example of The Silo bridging various elements of the city.

COBE’s aim is to provide something for the surrounding community, making The Silo not only a residential building, but also a destination for the public. Giving something back to the community is essential for the social sustainability of the area, and the Danish architecture firm sees this as an important element for the growth and development of this new district.

Evening exterior view, in context. The Silo. © Rasmus Hjortshøj COAST

As a building that seeks to bind relationships between private and public life, and seeks to share knowledge of the past using current materiality and form, The Silo is a clear physical representation of COBE’s publicly stated aim to create social interaction through all their projects.


CITY Copenhagen
SIZE 10,000m2