Lagkagehuset/The Layer Cake House: The Building Scandal that Ended with International Bakery Success

Lagkagehuset
Foto: Martin Toft Burchardi Bendtsen, Arkitekturbilleder.dk
 

One of Copenhagen’s first modernist residential buildings came about under the shadow of multiple scandals. Now, it is just as coveted as the bakery chain that first opened its doors on the ground floor.

When you stand on Christianshavns Torv, bustling with people and passers-by, it is easy to spot. Situated on one of the most congested streets in one of the smallest districts in Copenhagen is a building resembling a tall white and yellow layer cake. Hence the name, which at the time was intended as a taunt.

The area was once home to a large women’s prison when the mayor of Copenhagen decided in the 1920s that there was a need to build more housing for the people of the city. The prison was demolished, the women transferred and the architect Edvard Thomsen was tasked with creating a new building in a minimalist style with clean lines.

Modernism had arrived in Copenhagen.

In the 1930s, the simple and clean-line facades must have stood out in surprising contrast to old Copenhagen. The criticism was harsh. And the fact that the building ended up costing the city ten times the original budget only made matters worse. The mayor placed all the blame on the architect, who was allegedly plagued by the story for the rest of his life. Today, the bright apartments are in high demand.

In 2008, new owners took over the corner bakery named after the building in which it was founded, Lagkagehuset. The concept was popular and quickly became a financially successful chain. Many of the chain’s bakeries are situated on the corner of a distinctive building, just like the original bakery.

Facts:

  • The original women’s prison had also been a children’s reformatory and a men’s penitentiary, and these institutions have characterized Christianshavn for centuries.
  • The former prison grounds were enormous, occupying 7,000 sq. m. This left room for an expansion of Torvegade up to Lagkagehuset and the neighboring building, which was dubbed Sandkagen – meaning “sand cake”.
  • Lagkagehuset was built by the City of Copenhagen in 1931 as a tenement block.
  •  The building houses 48 apartments ranging in size from three to six rooms. On street level, there are shops and the second floor is home to a public library.
  •  In 1996, the city sold the property to the residents, who took over the dwellings as cooperative apartments for a song. Today, the value of the apartments has doubled many times over.
  • Edvard Thomsen is considered an important architect today for his contributions to Danish modernism, including Søndermarken’s Chapel and Crematorium and Øregaard High School.

Nearby:

The highest spire in Christianshavn is on Vor Frelser Church. It is accessible via a very long spiral staircase and offers magnificent views of the entire city. However, it is only recommended for people who are not afraid of heights.

Down along the canal, it is possible to rent boats. From here, you can sail through the canals and out into the harbor to get a look at the city from the water.

Architect

Edvard Thomsen

Built

1931