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Hides of industry: Johansen Skovsted, Denmark

Johansen Skovsted Arkitekter are increasingly drawn to post-industrial rural sites where they can deploy wider regeneration initiatives

Johansesn Skovsted Arkitekter have been shortlisted for the AR Emerging Architecture awards 2018

The founders of Johansen Skovsted Arkitekter (JSA), Søren Johansen and Sebastian Skovsted, speak of an interest in ‘silent’ structures, the stuff of infrastructure and industrial purpose seen as distinct from crafted architecture. Aptly, they are surrounded by it, their office is in Poul Holsøe’s 1930s Modernist complex in Copenhagen’s trendy Meatpacking District. Of late, however, JSA’s sights have been set further out of the city, to a series of remote rural sites.

Tipperne hide 01 photo rasmus norlander

Tipperne hide

While some may be drawn to these areas for the landscape, JSA have as much love for pylons and the post-industrial, elements that speak to the fast-evaporating identity of these places. In some cases, these areas have been previously inaccessible, and the work of JSA has keyed into wider regeneration initiatives to make them public again.

Unsurprisingly, there’s a touch of the Bechers’ industrial romance here, nowhere more so than in the ongoing project in Hedeland for a series of galvanised blue structures to redevelop a former industrial landscape some 20km west of Copenhagen: ‘at first sight you could wonder whether the objects are fragments or left-over machinery’, say JSA. These artefact-like constructions are designed to be moved via tractor throughout the landscape, redefining it as they go, but crucially, they bring with them new uses – a bird hide, overnight shelters or even a sauna. It is this potential to ‘play with common perceptions’ that constitutes the ideal project for JSA, rendering the undesirable curiously desirable.

Johansen skovsted site plan

Johansen skovsted site plan

Johansen skovsted drawings 1

Johansen skovsted drawings 1

Click to download

A series of works for Tipperne Bird Sanctuary on the west coast of Jutland are similar explorations of simple objects redefining a rural landscape. A new viewing tower, bird hide, workshop and refurbished research station all embody different approaches to this environment. The Tipperne tower, taking advantage of a nearby factory that produces cylindrical iron masts for the bulk of its material, is a lightweight structure that grows in width, telescope-like as it rises. The hide is a mysterious, low triangular Corten structure inspired by Alexander Graham Bell’s tetrahedral kite, providing a rest point on a walking trail, and the workshop is an interpretation of nearby hunting huts, formed by a simple timber frame clad in aluminium plates, painted black externally and left exposed internally. The research station has been created by retrofitting the existing Tipper House, now housing exhibitions, a dining room and sleeping areas. Only a ramp has been added to the original thatched exterior. Internally, white walls and bright red radiators and pipes signal its new purpose.

Johansen skovsted drawings 2

Johansen skovsted drawings 2

Click to download

Each of these, dotted like little objet trouvés, recalls some element of the site’s history, or is simply a means of reassessing the landscape. Before forming JSA, Skovsted worked at Architecten de Vylder Vinck Taillieu, and Johansen at the Berlin office of David Chipperfield Architects: some of the whimsy of the former is detectable here, as is the material strength of the latter.

It is an impressive honing of an approach seen at the Skjern River Pumping Stations, shortlisted for last year’s AREA awards (AR November 2017). But while this saw JSA building for machines, the aim here is more experiential, and centred on the experience of the visitor. JSA speak of an interest in the contrast between ‘the ordinary and the monumental’, but if anything, they demonstrate a remarkable ability to transform one into the other.

Architect: Johansen Skovsted Arkitekter

Photographs: Rasmus Norlander, unless otherwise stated

This piece is featured in AR November issue on Emerging Architecture and the Netherlands – click here to purchase your copy today 

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