Spotlight: Isbjerget Apartments, Aarhus, Denmark

We love Scandinavian design.  It’s rooted in an inherent acknowledgement of how we exist as humans in harsh, northern climates. In Calgary, we live in a very similar environment so there’s a lot we can learn and apply here. You’ll see Scandinavian influences throughout our body of work: clean lines, lots of daylight, a rational and efficient use of space, and a direct relationship between each home and its environment. 

This week we’re spotlighting the Isbjerget (“Iceberg”) apartments, recently completed in Denmark’s second-largest city, Aarhus.  It’s a spectacular multi-family project that embodies everything we love most about Scandinavian design.  Located in the city's old industrial port, the Isbjerget apartments are part of a larger redevelopment area called Aarhus East, which will eventually be home to 7,000 residents and 12,000 jobs. Taking up 800,000 m2 it is one of the largest harbour front redevelopments in Europe.


On one side of the complex is the city's harbour and on the other is what will be a dense and vibrant urban community. The designers wanted the complex to relate to both. Unlike typical Danish apartments, which have closed outer blocks around a courtyard, the Isbjerget is composed of four L-shaped wings that face out towards the harbour. At street level the buildings meet the harbour and the streets open towards the water. Higher up the buildings have a more urban character and relate to the rest of Aarhus East.


To optimize daylighting and views the buildings are peaked and varied. There are 11 pinnacles. Each has its own unique design making the complex dynamic. The tallest pinnacles are at the back of the site and the shortest at the front. This way residents at the back get a view too, with great views of Aarhus Bay, Kalø Cove and the city. 


Floating icebergs serve as inspiration for the project’s massing. Blue balconies and white exteriors mimic colours from the arctic. They do a great job of echoing their inspiration and are an eye-catching sight. Given its location the buildings can be seen from a number of points in Aarhus.


The around 210 units in the apartments are varied and include flats, townhouses, affordable housing (standard in many North European developments) and penthouses. This creates a socially diverse community. Two-storey townhouses are at ground level to create a pleasant streetscape. Penthouses at the top and make use of the peaked roofs.  


The apartments are the result of a collaboration between SeARCH, CEBRA, JDS Architects and Louis Paillard. Construction was completed in 2013. The Isbjerget apartments received the MIPIM Award in 2013 and the ArchDaily Award in 2015.

Images courtesy of Mikkel Frost, CEBRA.

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