Vartov Square

This project was won through International Design Competition in 2009 and was completed in early 2013.

Our strategy was to articulate a sequence of new public spaces adjacent to the City Hall in the centre of the Danish capital. The site, as we first encountered it, was dominated by large areas of car-parking with some of the space dedicated to taxis. Within this sea of vehicles, the Lure Players locally famous statue, felt somewhat stranded and devalued. The project was delivered on a construction budget of approximately £1.8M (all funded through Copenhagen Council as one of a number of key projects in the development of the city’s public realm) on a city centre site adjacent to the City Hall and a major vehicular route. This presented many logistical problems. These included the need to carefully co-ordinate the programme and phasing of the project to ‘sync’ with other infrastructure works in the area (including a new underground rail station being constructed on an adjacent site). Construction of the project caused temporary displacement of a primary taxi-rank and tour bus halt - these were accommodated through temporary site arrangements.
The site is divided into two distinct spaces separated by a new woodland of cherry trees out of which the Lure Players statue emerges, re-presented to the city. At one end of the cherry wood a new public space is created - Vartov Square (or Alms–House Square ) which is overlooked by the oldest of the neighbouring buildings - the Alms-
House itself. This building is the backdrop to a lesser–known Hans Christian Andersen story where the protagonist looks out over the square from a window in the building. The subtle pattern of the square’s surface is generated from the windows of this same building. Thereby, the most modest (yet oldest) building at the head of the site casts an impression of its elevation across the whole length of the project. The story is etched into stone plinths that evoke the previous use of the site as a medieval graveyard.

"Right next to the green embankment that surrounds Copenhagen and once was part of its defences stands a large building with many windows…
An old maid is leaning out of the window; she picks a dead leaf from the balsam plant that stands on the window sill, and looks out at the children who are playing on the embankment. What is she thinking about?
She is reliving the drama of a life..."
Extract from ‘From a Window in Vartov’, Hans Christian Andersen, 1855

We are interested in how our projects sit within a wider view of the history of a place so that the design might relate to the historic narratives of the city. Vartov has been built with robust materials and detailing that will all age with dignity. These materials have already conferred a sense of age and weight to the space that it previously lacked, so that the age of the project is already ambiguous - absorbed into the city.