Radiohuset: Architectural Gem and Pioneering Design

Culture

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© Rasmus Hjortshøj
 

​​​​​​​As the radio grew in popularity, Vilhelm Lauritzen was invited in 1934 to design new headquarters for the Danish public radio broadcaster, Statsradiofonien. The organization needed bigger and better facilities. A building designed for radio. At the time, this was virgin territory for architects and engineers alike. The project did not have the best of starts when the design was released to the public. However, over the decades, Radiohuset (The Radio House) on Rosenørns Allé in Frederiksberg has evolved into a gem of Danish architectural history.

Radiohuset in Frederiksberg blends in beautifully with the housing blocks that surround it. And yet, the building is characterized by a pioneering design and innovations in Danish architecture.

Vilhelm Lauritzen was a functionalist and designed every element based on a detailed functional analysis. In other words, form follows the function it is to embody. The building resembles a series of conjoined rectangular boxes with different, clearly decodable functions. The concert hall is a large trapezoidal space with a domed ceiling, and the main entrance is situated in the tallest wing, facing Rosenørns Allé.

Holistic Design in Exclusive Materials

The building’s highly functional appearance is softened by sensual materials, from sandstone facades and Greenlandic marble to teak, brass and maple paneling. The latter was originally a pale color, but over the years has taken on a reddish patina. The ceiling in the foyer is made from oxhide mounted directly onto mineral wool.

With his keen eye for functionality, Lauritzen designed different door handles, depending on whether they were to be pushed or pulled. The lamps, wall coverings, furnishings and banisters are all custom made for Radiohuset, resulting in a carefully orchestrated holistic effect. The successful interior design is also thanks, to a great extent, to the efforts of furniture designer Finn Juhl.

Rooftop Gardens Before They Were a Thing

The roofs of the studio block were covered with a thick layer of soil and planted as rooftop gardens in collaboration with landscape architect G.N. Brandt.  However, in typical Lauritzen fashion, the layer of soil was not only decorative but served a function: providing soundproofing. The rooftop gardens have since been used as a relaxing oasis for Radiohuset’s employees when they need a break from their busy lives. Considering how green roofs and urban gardens are popping up all over the place these days, Lauritzen proved to be a man ahead of his time. 

Purposefully Delayed

Radiohuset was built during a tumultuous time, and the German occupation had a significant impact on the pace of construction. Neither Lauritzen nor the client – Statsradiofonien – wanted the Germans to be able to use the concert hall for their propaganda. And so, once the exterior was completed, the process of fitting out the interior was consciously sluggish. The story goes: as soon as the panels were set up, they were taken down again to ensure the building wasn’t ready to be used by the Nazis. In September 1945, Radiohuset finally opened its doors – just a few months after Liberation Day.

Until 2008, Radiohuset was the headquarters of DR’s radio department before relocating to the new joint headquarters, DR Byen, in Copenhagen’s Ørestad district. Today, Radiohuset houses the Royal Danish Academy of Music.