Affordable and beautiful wooden apartments for the lower-income Danish residents

Named after its Dortheavej address in the northwestern part of Copenhagen, the five-storey building winds through the area characterised by car repair shops, warehouses and industrial buildings from the 1930s–50s.

Bjarke Ingels Group(BIG) was commissioned to design Dortheavej in 2013 by Danish non-profit affordable housing association Lejerbo, whose mission is drafted by Danish urban space designer Jan Gehl. BIG was asked to create much needed affordable housing and public space in the area, without closing off the pedestrian passageways and keeping the adjacent green yard untouched.

Earlier this year, BIG and Lejerbo were honoured by the Danish Association of Architects with the Lille Arne Award for prioritising the spatial qualities of the residences and the building strategy on a strict affordable housing budget.

The housing modules are arranged and stacked such that the building has a gentle curvy contour , while its height integrates harmoniously with the surrounding buildings. The stacking creates additional space for each apartment to have a small terrace, providing a setting for healthy, sustainable living.

On the sunny south side, balconies retract and add depth to the façade while on the northern side, the facade is even. Long wooden planks cover the façade on all sides, emphasising the modules and alternating arrangement of the planks accentuate the checkered pattern.

Large floor-to-ceiling windows in the apartments allow lots of daylight into the units and outside views to the green courtyard or the surrounding neighbourhood. The size of the apartments ranges from 60-115m2 and the materials are kept basic with wood and concrete in light colours in both the exteriors and interiors.

Dortheavej is located in one of the most multi-ethnical, low-income neighbourhoods in Copenhagen. In the evening, the building can be seen as light and transparent after residents return home. Residents can look out from their balconies while the surrounding community can see the activity inside.

The small square created by the building’s slight curve will be landscaped with cherry trees and spaces for bicycle parking—the preferred way of getting around the city.

(All images are credited to Rasmus Hjortshoj)