Aarhus City Hall: Flagship of Functionalism

Culture

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Photo: VisitAarhus

Only after public pressure did Aarhus City Hall receive its tower and was clad in marble. Today, it is a masterpiece of early functionalism in Denmark.

It’s no exaggeration to call Aarhus City Hall a highly recognizable icon – especially due to its sculptural tower and clock face, surrounded by gray columns.

However, when Arne Jacobsen and Erik Møller won the competition for Aarhus City Hall in 1937, their project consisted of three staggered building blocks, but no city hall tower.

Soon, public protests were so significant that the architects felt compelled to add a 60-meter-high tower. But it was made as a functionalist tower, surrounded by a skeletal structure and lacking the traditional spire. The public pressure also led to the buildings’ facades being clad in marble instead of plaster. The play of colors on the building’s facades reflects light and sparkles in different ways throughout the day.

Form follows function

Aarhus City Hall is a masterpiece of the functionalist architectural style that gained prominence in Denmark in the early 20th century. Here, form was meant to follow function, as the architectural style’s mantra goes, resulting in a strict expression without unnecessary ornaments and details.

In addition to the tower, the city hall consists of three buildings of varying height, depth, and length. Both the main building with the town hall and the tall administrative wing have offices on either side of an area with skylights. Moreover, both buildings have big windows in the gable, resulting in plenty of natural light and views of the surrounding trees. The third building with the service office stands out with its vaulted roof and exposed concrete construction. However, there is no doubt about the coherence of the building parts.

Beauty from within

Upon entering, you immediately sense that everything has been meticulously thought out. The architects created a comprehensive gesamtkunstwerk, characterized by soft forms in wood and brass. They designed lamps, fixtures, and details, down to elevator buttons and the iconic font. At the same time, the newly graduated Hans J. Wegner worked at the studio and, together with Arne Jacobsen and Erik Møller, designed the city hall’s many furniture pieces in beech and mahogany – a warm and distinctive contrast to the building’s gray exterior.

Architectural oasis

The city hall’s location is also well thought out. The complex divides the area into a city hall square in front of the main building and a city hall park – a former cemetery with a preserved linden avenue – behind it. The meticulous planning and its iconic design make it a building that not only serves as an administrative center but also as an architectural gem in Denmark.

 

This translation was performed by an AI-based service and subsequently reviewed by an editor. For any clarifications, refer to the original Danish version.