Gl. Jernbanevej 4-6,Valby, Copenhagen


    Gl. Jernbanevej 4-6 is a private rental property from 1899 located in the district of Valby in the city of Copenhagen. The building structures and architecture of the property are characteristic for housing properties built in the period of 1850 to 1920 in Copenhagen. The property is beautifully built with handmade bricks and is a part of the worth preserving built environment of the district. The property contains 20 apartments, including 4 ground floor apartments as commercial leases.

    All apartments are two-room and only about 50 m² each - the loft apartments being even a bit smaller. The apartments have small toilets situated at the backstairs and shared bathrooms at the basement only. At the same time, the apartments appear outdated regarding living spaces, comfort, and technical installations. The tenants therefore had wishes for the property to be modernized. The need for modernization was also recognized by the property owner, who wished to raise the value of the building by focusing on added qualities – as well technically, as added living qualities for the tenants


    The process started as an urban renewal project with the support from City of Copenhagen, involving the tenants, the owner and his advisor. Rapidly, questions about how to improve life through living qualities, convenience, and health, rather than technical details on improving the existing building, came to be at the focus of the process.


    The tenants dreamt about new living functions such as a nice kitchen and a fine living room, on indoor climate and comfort such as access to daylight through a balcony or direct access to outdoor spaces. A thorough investigation on existing resident behaviour and wishes for the future has emphasised the focus on “living qualities, convenience and health”, rather than on “the building” itself.


    Several workshops including the tenants were held, and the first layout was drawn incorporating thoughts on how to open up the building for more daylight and more space. Little by little, the process has pivoted around key issues regarding daylight and how to design new living functions. Also indoor climate and energy performance were worked with, where principles from the Active House Standard were applied.


    The finalised proposal for modernisation was prepared in April 2015. The proposal for modernising the property raises the plot ratio, demanding a new district plan and public hearing, ending with an approval in the middle of 2017. The process for project planning and official approval challenges known processes, and the project has therefore become a case representing key issues regarding future city planning in Copenhagen.


    The concept for the Valby project has pivoted about how daylight changes during the seasons and the day – and how daylight can be accessed at the right moment in the right amount, creating comfort, well-being and healthy homes.


    Daylight also directly impacts the means to access “natural” and “cultural” qualities in the near environment – “nature” as an access to green outdoor spaces, “the courtyard” and its “close community” - “home” as a private space - and the city, the “vast community”, referring to the “cultural identities” of the city.


    The property’s existing building structures create an opaque division between indoor and outdoor qualities, between social, private and cultural spaces. The Valby project therefore seeks to open existing structures of the built environment to new social, private and cultural spaces, i.e. through the means of daylight. New living spaces are created, meaning new means of accessing and understanding garden spaces, home spaces, and city spaces – for each day of the year.


    With a simple “grip”, the property now gains access to daylight throughout all seasons, and appears with new, greening zones towards the courtyard - breaking up with the strict division between community and private spaces, thus creating semi-social areas between home and courtyard.


    Basically, the new design creates an opposite transparent ”L” on the building, enlarging the courtyard side facing west by 2 meters and the roof space with a new fifth floor, preserving the historic façade to the street. Four large family dwellings in two levels are created at the top, replacing the existing, small penthouses. This grip enables all apartments to be enlarged with new living spaces on the courtyard side, ensuring more daylight and fresh air, creating a stronger relationship between “home” and “nature” spaces.


    The existing small living room, facing east towards the noisy street, is now divided into two small rooms, and noise cancelling windows ensure, that these can be used as bedrooms. At the same time, new space has been create for bathrooms in all apartments.


    In addition to new living rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms, the residents now have access to daylight and air in their apartments due to a more direct connection between the courtyard and the apartments. The added space creates new and different living qualities. Through two glass “membranes” towards the courtyard, all living rooms can access a maximum of light and air.


    At summertime, both the inner and the outer “membrane” can be completely permeable to fresh air, daylight and outdoor sounds, by opening the outer glass wall and opening or closing the inner. The new area can be used as a large, open or semi-enclosed balcony towards the courtyard, depending on weather and preferences.


    During wintertime the highly insulated outer glass wall can be fully closed, and the inner opened, using the space as an extension to the living room, adding approximately 10 m2 of living space to each apartment. The new indoor area is designed to add a maximum of daylight in the apartments during the dark winter season.


    This new living space has been named “bolighaven”, or the “home garden”. The new glass membranes and roofing materials also ensures a highly energy-efficient building, without compromising with its historical façade, preserving the worth preserving cultural identity of the built environment in Valby.