Architecture: „Quarry in the Facade“

(March 2010) Some façades have something magical about them: random passers-by find themselves stopping and admiring the building, then walking all around it before finally daring to ask the concierge, if it might be possible to steal a glance at the interior – at the secrets which lie beneath the outer skin.

This is precisely the case for the Horten Law Firm in Copenhagen where 3XN Architects integrated seemingly chaotic protrusions up and down the façade.

The unusual arrangement is not merely decorative. In reality the protrusions are bay windows catching the maximum sunlight to the north and opening to a splendid view of the water and the former port.

To the south, they protect from the sun and prevent the rooms from overheating.

The façade opens „up to the north and closes towards south, in order to prevent the need for solar shading“, says Lise Roland Johansen, responsible for communication in the company.

Readers may have guessed: this is all about energy conservation. To this end, the architects worked with innovative technology of sandwich insulation comprised of fibreglass and foam covered by 3.5 cm-thick travertine.

Let us return to our passer-by, who has, by now, completed his tour of the interior and back outside guides his view along the many nooks and crannies in the façade. „The travertine is a classic stone that expresses weight and monumentality, a classic for a law firm“, according to Lise, „so it was a challenge to use it for a different expression: Our façade rather has the expression of a quarry and the texture of the travertine emphasizes that.“

Playfulness is also reflected in the name of the architects: originally three architects by the name of Nielsen founded the firm. „Now only one Nielsen remains, and thus we decided to change the name into the 3XN ,acronym’ – still referring to the original name but also signalling new times“, says Lise.

The stone originates form the Italian Focus Marble International Company, construction by the Danish E. Pihl & Søn Company.


Focus Marble International

E. Pihl & Søn

Photos: Adam Mørk