Beautiful Buildings: 8 House

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Perhaps one of the most ambitious and playful architects of the modern day, Bjarke Ingel Group, or “BIG”, designed the bow tie shaped “8 House” in 2006 and building completed on site in 2010. Compared to other architects at the time, BIG really did think big, creating a 62,000-sq-m mixed housing, retail and office space in the heart of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Cyclists are able to access the 8 House from ground level and reach the 10th floor before they must dismount

Deservedly winning the “Best House” award at the 2011 World Architecture Festival, 8 House is Denmark’s largest private housing development ever undertaken and is a step ahead of anything of this scale across Europe. With cyclists able to enter the 8 House from ground level and make it to their front door on the 10th floor without dismounting, the ambitious shape and design of the development gives it a charm that no other building can offer.

In this eight-looped layout, the house creates a neighbourhood across a large footprint, instead of building upwards. Whilst buildings like the 8 House might not be able to address the problem of a shortage of land to build upon, it certainly creates a sense of community that ordinary high density tower blocks simply cannot. A promenade dotted with areas of green space links the whole community together, door-to-door, and makes tower block living much more tolerable.

The offices and retail spaces have been designed at the base of the building to encourage maximum footfall, whilst the apartments benefit from being higher up the 8 loop as it rises to the north-easterly corner. This enables apartments to have great views of the surrounding lakes and water, maximum light, as the building is pushed downwards at the south-west corner, and a greater sense of connectivity with the courtyard below and the city of Copenhagen beyond the house itself.

The courtyard at the centre of the south-western loop is exposed to one side and surrounded by the rising promenade and apartments, giving space to the vertical neighbourhood

As mentioned, the promenade decreases the disconnection between floor and door that one would expect from living in a 10th story penthouse apartment. Moving past green spaces, apartments and townhouses that span two floors, the mixed use of the space, not just for those who live in the area but the wider community of Copenhagen, is something to be celebrated. The promenade is actually a public footpath, and whilst some may not want people walking past their front door, it reintroduces the sense of community that tower blocks reluctantly lose in the ever introverted urban environment of the global cities of London, Shanghai and New York.

BIG pioneer not only the efficient and economical use of space and community creation, but also sustainable projects. Two green roofs span over half of the 8 loop’s shape, with a total area of 1,700-sq-m, reducing the urban heat island effect created from buildings with exposed roofs and their concrete heating up.

The inventive shape of the 8 House, disconnected at either end to allow the public space to be used by all and for light to reach the apartments on the interior façade of the courtyard

The building itself is created with various modern building methods and materials, producing a very clean and sleek look that contrasts with the nature hidden up and down the various routes in the neighbourhood loop. However, what makes this building beautiful is its unconventional approach to what we know as an apartment block. The reintroduction of community in the tower block, which is usually relegated only to the ground floor, creates a vertical neighbourhood, where individuals can meet in the park on their way to the 8th floor – the building is one that propagates spontaneous neighbour interaction and community.

BIG have managed to create something unprecedented, though not universally applicable, in the urban design world. Gone are the days of thin, suffocating corridors and dark, damning steel lifts.

This architecture is the epitome of how people really want to live.