Tingbjerg Library and Culture House
Tingbjerg’s Library and Culture House is a new cultural institution in northwest Copenhagen. The Danish architecture studio, COBE, has designed the iconic building as a slender, seamless shell that challenges the scale and formal expression of its surroundings while still growing out of its existing contextual characteristics and qualities.
The new library and culture house opened its doors in October 2018 and was created as a collaboration between the City of Copenhagen, COBE and social housing corporations fsb and SAB. As the first step in the development of the challenged neighbourhood, Tingbjerg, the iconic library is located next to the local school, as a gathering point between residential housing units and green areas.
Tingbjerg is a modernist housing project designed by architect, urban planner and theorist Steen Eiler Rasmussen and landscape architect Carl Theodor Sørensen. Built from 1950 to 1972 as a tightly composed residential district, it was created as an attractive alternative to the congested city centre of Copenhagen. With all its houses built in yellow brick, the city district is coherent and complete with its own school, church, pedestrian shopping street and a residential housing area.
With time, the conception of Tingbjerg as a model community has changed, and today, the area is on the government’s list of marginalised areas, the so-called “ghetto list”. Despite its changed reputation, the district is still regarded as a cornerstone in modernist architecture and city planning today.
The library is designed as a large, wedge-shaped shell that at its narrowest is just 1.5 metres wide. With its four floors, transparent windows and iconic shape, the building stands clearly out towards the adjacent school and the surrounding low-scale residential housing. As the first new building in Tingbjerg since 1983, the library has its own landmark identity, while the rest of Tingbjerg’s buildings points towards the overall modernist concept. At the same time, the building has strong bonds and grows directly out of its historic surroundings. With a cladding in yellow brick “baguettes” and slanted roof towards the school, the library reinterprets Tingbjerg’s materials and coherent architectural language.
The inside of the building is clad in warm, wooden plywood lamellas that form a dialogue with the brick on the facade. A tall foyer space extends up vertically, connecting all four floors of the building into one unifying space. The floors grow out into the foyer with niches and balconies, which gives an overview of what happens at many different floors at once. The library includes many diverse facilities in one building, including meeting rooms, a café, workshops and a flexible space that can adapt to a multitude of uses, from concerts, meetings, lectures and dance classes. The divisions between the spaces can be changed with sliding doors, while a transparent glass facade towards the street openly displays the activities that take place in the building through coloured windows.
With its flexible spaces, the building provides the architectural framework for social and cultural activities in Tingbjerg. The library is designed as a social space that contributes to a positive development of the neighbourhood that previously lacked a central space to gather. As the building is placed directly next to Tingbjerg School, a natural connection is created between the students and the library’s facilities, while the transparent facade towards the street provides safety in the area and invites the public to come inside.
Landscape architects Kragh & Berglund has created the outdoor spaces surrounding the library. Sustainability is thought into the process, as the original hand-cut cobblestones are reused in the new outdoor spaces and mixed with new concrete tiles and vegetation beds. By reusing what was already there from the beginning, the area’s new identity still seems recognisable and stays true to the original intentions designed by landscape architect C. Th. Sørensen.
As the first step in the future development of Tingbjerg, the library shows how investing in high-quality architecture can create a new story and identity for a challenged neighbourhood. With its strong, iconic identity and transparent facade, the new library becomes a new landmark of Tingbjerg, while still paying homage to the original good intentions for the neighbourhood. By both respecting and breaking with tradition, the library sets the standard for the further development of the city district and points towards a new future for Tingbjerg.
Project: Tingbjerg Library and Culture House
Location: Tingbjerg, Brønshøj, Denmark
Interior design: Rune Fjord Studio
Landscape architect: Kragh & Berglund
Engineer: Søren Jensen Consulting Engineers
Contractors: C. C. Bruun Enterprise, Kemp & Lauritzen and Juul & Nielsen
Resident involvement: Rambøll Architecture