KB32: Brutal Concrete Gets a New Look



DSB’s old freight rail hotel lived a sad existence for many years, wallowing at Kalvebod Brygge 32, near Copenhagen Central Station. The building’s Brutalist style was both loved and hated. Primarily the later. However, after a complete transformation, the Brutalist edifice has been reborn as one of Copenhagen’s most celebrated buildings.

KB32 has re-emerged with a contemporary look characterized by multifunctional decor, daylight and materials like oak, hot-rolled steel and 55-year-old exposed concrete. It has been transformed into a six-story office building, proving that it is possible to create something new and innovative on an existing foundation. The local development plan permitted extension or expansion – but instead, the most climate-friendly path was taken: to renovate, keeping the robust raw concrete structure as the foundation.

Tribute to the Original Look

The 180-meter-long building, originally designed by architect Ole Hagen in 1967. However, the end result was a random and incoherent look that was a far cry from the original intentions. Inside and out, the new design has therefore been built on the original look, expanding and enhancing the qualities the building was born with.

The clear rhythm of the window sections, which grow gradually smaller from the ground level up, gives the elongated facade’s composition of different elements a cadence that celebrates the original look from the 1960s.

Impressive Spaces and Customized Solutions

Inside, the lowered ceilings have been torn out, giving each floor an impressive ceiling height of nearly 4.5 meters. Combined with the nearly 4 meter-high windows, this opens up the spaces, allowing daylight to reach deep inside the building where the light-colored, preserved raw concrete beams add an industrial touch.

The high-ceilinged spaces also required special focus on acoustics. Large parts of the building’s interior surfaces have therefore been covered with micro-perforated, hot-rolled steel panels on top of a layer of absorbent material that serves to dampen sound in the office environment.

Transition between Indoors and Out

The renovation has also made the transition between indoors and out easier. The new rooftop terrace runs the entire length of the building and can be used for hanging out and working out. Furthermore, openings have been created to ease access to the outdoor garden of the neighboring Danish National Archives from the second floor, as well as the creation of outdoor pockets in the form of new balconies on the south side of the building.

Survived the 90s

KB32 is part of the revitalization of the old DSB areas and properties that extend from Copenhagen Central Station, past Dybbølsbro Station and onward towards Sydhavn Station, including the old postal area, Postbyen, and the old railroad area, Jernbanebyen. One of the few buildings to survive the building boom in the Kalvebod Brygge district in the 90s, KB32 tells the story of the role the railway played as a driver of Copenhagen’s development. The building was awarded Best Architecture in Copenhagen in 2022, proving that it is possible to create unique, new architecture on the foundations of the past.