Living in Copenhagen: a house like a mountain

Status: 11.08.2021 5:10 a.m.

How can people live in a small space while enjoying nature and privacy? One of the questions that will be discussed in Berlin from today, at a conference on the future of urban life. Copenhagen found an answer back in 2008.

By Sofie Donges, ARD-Studio Stockholm

If you look at the building from a distance, it looks like many row houses are nestled against a slope. That is why the people of Copenhagen simply call the house “The Mountain”. 80 apartments, built nested, each with a small private garden facing south. The complex fulfills many wishes of city dwellers: close to the center, nature and privacy.

Christian Dehn and his wife moved in straight after the end of construction in 2008: “It’s a fantastically beautiful place to live. A good combination – you have a garden, but it’s not a house.” He proudly shows his apartment: L-shaped with a view of gardens, green roofs and an old residential area in the distance. The apartment is bright and simple, wood and concrete are the essential elements.

Due to the nested construction, the gardens are in honeycombs – a feeling of privacy is created, despite the many neighbors. And there is a lot of green, a lot of plants. Architect Bjarke Ingels once said about his idea that in the end the house should look like a temple ruin in Cambodia – as if nature had recaptured the building.

The Dehn couple are long-established residents of the “Mountain Dwellings”.

Image: Rikke Detlefsen

21 different climbing plants

After all, the vegetation is not quite as dramatic, but it is still green. And nobody has to worry, according to the architect at an event in 2009: “The rainwater is collected in large water tanks. And then we developed an automatic irrigation system so that the 21 different climbing plants always have optimal conditions.”

If you go to the other side of the building, you come to a large parking garage. That too is well thought out and designed: bright colors, ceilings up to 16 meters high, clear lines. No gray functional building, but colorful and based on the Panton design of the 1960s and 1970s. “We call this architectural alchemy: a mixture of traditional ingredients such as living and parking. And from this we create added value in the form of houses with a garden and a view,” says Ingels.

Around the back it goes to the parking garage.

Image: Rikke Detlefsen

Once buses came full of curious people

13 years ago buses came full of people who wanted to marvel at the house. And the Danish Crown Prince proudly presented the building several times during high state visits. In the meantime, calm has returned to Mountain Dwellings – there have long been other, newer projects in the city.

Christian Dehn still enjoys the apartment with a view and garden as he did at the beginning, he says. “For me, sustainability is the community we have here. You get in close contact with the others, and that’s what we want to have. The idea is good!”

Advantages and disadvantages in the pandemic

However, the architect did not really consider one thing when he designed the building: that a pandemic could come and many residents would have to work at home: “It is impossible to work here in pairs. Glass and concrete create a terrible response. “

But Dehn is also clear: This is whining at a high level. Because an apartment that feels like a house with a garden and a view – few city dwellers had this luck during the pandemic.

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