A youth club produced on a low budget shows the potential of non-Euclidean geometry
Originally published in AR December 2004, this piece was republished in August 2016
Amager is the big, often rather messy island in the Copenhagen complex. It is where traffic from the bridge over the Sound to Sweden arrives in Denmark. Ostamager (East Amager) is a strange area in which run-down industry is mixed with thriving sailing clubs, the latest of which is the maritime youth centre on Sundby harbour.
In the haphazard tatterdemalion surroundings of sheds and abandoned industrial buildings, the new centre stands out as an organized oasis. It is not so much a building as a landscape, a wooden one that undulates between harbour and Sound.
Since Foreign Office Architects completed their pier in Yokohama (AR January 2003), such artificial landscapes have become common on the drawing boards of students and young architects, but few of them are based on anything more than fashion and delight in being able to manipulate non-Euclidean geometry. At 0stamager, there are reasons for the strategy. The ground is heavily polluted with heavy metals, and the cost of excavating the site and removing the toxic material would have been beyond the means of the client (the Copenhagen Commune), so the architects decided to cover the plot with a 21 00m2 deck. Its undulations both shelter dinghies and provide an eventful play surface.
Youth centre 3
Two separate single-storey buildings are enfolded by the deck. The L-shaped eastern one has social facilities such as the sailing club room and a general purpose space complete with a kitchen. In the opposite corner of the rectangular wooden landscape is a block that contains workshops, locker rooms and boat hall. Both buildings have vertical glass walls through which they are entered, but their other faces are formed of curving, sloping wood over which the users run, sit and play. Clearly, there is a danger that people involved in energetic activities could fall off the roof down the glass cliffs. To avoid this, balustrades top the potentially dangerous places; they are one of the most successful parts of the whole-design, with widely-spaced thin stainles-steel balusters joined by stainless-steel mesh.
Youth centre 4
In some countries, and in other hands, the balustrades could have been extremely visually heavy and the death of the project, but at Sundby, the metal rails are not obtrusive and from some angles they almost disappear. Not all the details are so felicitous, for instance detailing of the vertical walls is a bit clumsy in places, but it has to be remembered that this project (part of the commune’s Ostamager improvement project) had to be created on a small budget so it was necessary to use off-the-shelf components. The jury was most impressed by the architects’ imaginative response to limited resources and their ingenious command of new geometries.