Glaskuben: The Glass Cube


Photo: Per Munkgaard Thorsen,

Copenhagen-based architecture firm Schmidt Hammer Lassen, which became internationally known with the Black Diamond extension to the Royal Library, returns to the waterfront of Denmark’s capital.

The architects and their client Nykredit, a financial services company known for its interest in the visual arts and architecture, added in 2001 another significant building to Copenhagen’s harbor front, a stretch of previously industrial land developed from the late nineties.

The 18.000 square-meter glass cube is an aesthetic vision with a strong relationship to the city, the light and the water.

The large translucent facades, with vertical bands of windows, give the corporate building an open and friendly character.

The nine-story glass cube, comprised of three buildings around an open atrium, is raised above the ground, allowing passing traffic a view of the activities inside the building. Low steps, clad in the same smooth stone as the plaza in front of the building, lead to the main entrance. A smaller adjoining plaza, with stairs leading to the water and a “water-bus” stop, has since been built. The uneven cobblestones along the other facades make the building appear as a natural continuation of the Kalvebod Brygge waterfront area.

The offices are open to the central meeting point of the atrium; the more private meeting and conference rooms are placed in hanging boxes clad in dark polished wood. Views of the city and the site’s surrounding traffic flow unfold throughout the building. Open glass elevators placed in the atrium corners and an elegant glass staircase suspended in the atrium void provide the building’s vertical circulation.

On each floor offices and meeting rooms are connected by open walkways, with rest areas overlooking the atrium. The cafeteria is located on the second floor, with access to an outdoor covered terrace and an interior balcony overlooking the atrium. A sculpture in the atrium is by Danish artist Per Kirkeby.

The building is naturally ventilated by the outside air and the canal water, which are all led into the basement’s refrigerator system. The auditorium, cafeteria and kitchen area use fresh air from a separate installation above the roof level.

A mechanical system protects the air exchange from Copenhagen’s occasionally capricious winds. In the atrium, the floor is heated and the acoustics are regulated by separate integrated systems throughout the building.

The circular skylight shape, an architectural detail used in the atrium ceiling, is repeated in the building’s light sources and decorative elements.

In 2010, the harbor-facing glass cube of Nykredit’s headquarters was joined by the Crystal, another Nykredit-funded office building across the road with a similarly glazed and open aesthetic, and several additional angles.