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A modern merchant's house, Copenhagen, Denmark

Chris Hodson

With this conversion of a 1960s office building, BBP Arkitekter have used articulated, perforated golden copper alloy elements to animate and dramatically transform the external skin to suit different operational and lighting conditions, as they illustrate here.

Located in the Nyhavn district of central Copenhagen, this conversion forms the new headquarters for the Danish jewellery firm Trollbeads, who are known for their glass and gold beads. It is a high security building, organised like an Italian Renaissance merchant house with goods loaded safely at the ground floor, stock and offices above, and - at the highest level - a residence for the owner with a roof terrace.

Reconciling Modern and Historic

The challenge was to make a building that respects its typology as a contemporary curtain-wall building, while at the same time relating to the historic houses on either side. How do you reconcile modern design with the scale and character of an 18th century townhouse?

To achieve this, the original curtain wall was removed, the existing concrete structure stripped, then extended 2.5 m towards the street and a new skin of glass and perforated copper alloy added to cover the facade, roof and a small courtyard at the back. The building is defined by the two party walls, which have been raised and reshaped so as to follow the line of the neighbouring mansard roof. Typically of visible party walls in the city, the exposed wall has a different logic to the facade, with small, round windows forming a random pattern.

Copper Alloy Curtain

Between the two curved party walls, a skin of glass is stretched to cover the roof and facade. On the outside a golden copper alloy ‘curtain’ is hung, making a kind of inverted curtain-wall. Areas of the copper curtain can simply fold up to generate a pattern of fenestration matching that of the adjacent buildings and giving continuity to the streetscape. When closed, the curtain becomes homogenous and impenetrable - but then dissolves to reveal the interior with lighting at night.

Animating architecture

Every morning half the curtain opens, creating fenestration set into a ‘massive’ wall like the adjoining houses. After working hours the curtain closes automatically and the building is transformed into a secure vault. After dark dim lighting turns on inside, revealing a modern glass house behind a veil of translucent copper alloy. The pattern of perforations in the curtain was inspired by a hedge of thorns guarding a treasure and was developed by textile designer Lene Toni Kjeld together with architect Ebbe Wæhrens. Movable elements are hinged but when the curtain is closed there is little visible difference across the facades. At the third floor the curtain is folded down to align with the roof cornice of the adjacent house. The curtain also lifts up at the entrance, forming a canopy in line with a cornice on the neighbouring buildings.

Winner of European Copper in Architecture Awards 2015.  See winning entries in videosAwards Winner's brochure and Copper in Architecture Forum 2015/39 magazine.



Trollbeads A/S
Completion date: 
Zip code: 
Copenhagen K
Toldbodgade 13


Transparent structures
Type of building: 
Office buildings
Commercial, trading
Copper used: 
Golden alloy


Name, office: 
BBP Arkitekter

Copper contractors

Art Andersen Copenhagen & Hunter Douglas Architectual Projects Scandinavia
Address & description: 
Copper Product: TECU® Gold



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