Henning Larsens Tegnestue crafts an artist's retreat in northern Denmark that offers spatial options to its changing inhabitants.
Henry Urbach -- Interior Design, 8/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
Over the past 15 years, Mikael Andersen has established a reputation as a leading dealer of contemporary art in Copenhagen. Several years ago he decided to build a retreat for artists where, far from the noise and distraction of urban life, they could work in an atmosphere of comfort and solitude. He commissioned the internationally renowned firm of Henning Larsens Tegnestue to create a house near his own weekend home in Vejby, a seaside community about an hour's drive north of Copenhagen, that would be "simple and easy to cope with, where one can work without any disturbance at all." Since a variety of artists would inhabit the house for different periods of time, it was imperative that the house could accommodate multiple visions of work, comfort, and relaxation.
The 1,000-sq.-ft. house sits on a bluff about 150 ft. above the sea, and it is used year-round except for the harshest winter months. Built of timber with steel bracing and horizontal larch siding, the structure encloses a single volume lined on all surfaces with wood paneling. A central core dividing the box into two parts contains all mechanical equipment, two fireplaces, a skylit bathroom, and a well-equipped cooking area. Around this functional core are four sliding doors that divide the house into smaller spaces: an entry hall on one side and a kitchen on the other, as well as two larger rooms which can be used as studio and living areas. Although everything is compact, the house is surprisingly spacious. According to project architect Peer Teglgaard, "the house is small, but it had to contain the amenities of a normal home so the artist could live and work there comfortably, occasionally for long periods of time."
While the designers specified a set of spatial and programmatic possibilities, they were nonetheless careful to leave various options open to the individuals who come to stay there. According to Teglgaard, "we wanted to make two primary rooms so that the artist could choose what kind of light he or she prefers to work with." Each artist can choose how to occupy and define the various spaces to suit individual needs. The few, handsome pieces of furniture provided—a sofa bed, a table, and four chairs—are lightweight and can be easily rearranged as the artist sees fit.
Taking cues from local conditions of climate, view, and light, the designers developed each of the four façades differently to enrich further the range of interior experiences. The northern façade was built as a closed and protective plane, with concealed clerestory apertures and a low band of windows that brings warm sunlight onto the floor. By contrast, the southern façade is almost entirely transparent, with an enormous, 18-ft.-wide opening of double-pane glass with views of the fern-covered field. As a result, each of the two, primary interior spaces enjoys a very different ambience: a quality of protection and intimacy on one side, and a sense of exposure and expanse on the other. The articulation of the two side walls enhances this duality. The eastern edge is closed and smooth, with the entrance door set flush within the wall surface, while the western façade utilizes wooden shutters that can be opened, closed, or rotated horizontally to give various degrees of privacy, sun shading, and overhead enclosure. The architects also built two wooden decks, one to the south and a larger one to the west that reaches toward the sunset.
The articulation of the wrapper and the intelligence of the central core, combined with the many sliding and mobile elements, give the house a surprising sense of complexity and amplitude despite its overall simplicity. "It's really a house to be used," says Teglgaard, "with elements you can act upon and change." As it carefully screens the world beyond its walls, the house deftly creates an interior sanctuary for individual visions of contemplation and creative work.