Containers and cranes are being shipped out to make way for residents and workers in the Light*house district, a $361 million waterfront redevelopment in Århus, Denmark. The Dutch practice UNStudio and the Danish firm 3XN have designed a 15-acre, bicycle-friendly neighborhood that is transforming industrial port land into apartments, single-family residences, offices, and shops.


The development is based on a 1990s master plan for the site, which encompasses Århus’s Pier 4 in Container Terminal North, by the Danish architect Knud Fladeland. The design team also includes the Jan Gehl, of the local firm Gehl Architects, who says that in creating the Light*house district the designers have attempted to create a fine city, not a collection of “single buildings yelling at each other.” The project’s most distinctive visual feature is its homogenous facade scheme. A branching network of balcony rails and sunscreens makes up the building’s skin; these elements will be made of fibrous concrete or fiberglass.

Managed by two non-profit rental housing agencies, one-quarter of the residences will be low-cost rental units. The Light*house district’s iconic symbol will be a 466-foot-high tower containing apartments, capped on its top floor by a “Skybar” restaurant and café with a 39-foot-high glass canopy.

Also part of the long-term harbor redevelopment plan, the Danish firm Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter is designing Z-huset, a 10-story office and residential building with a Z-shaped plan located across a boulevard and slightly northwest of Light*house. Designed to resemble shipping containers, the facades of these offices will be covered in a quilt-like pattern of colorful silkscreen squares. The building will feature a white enamel glass, steel, and polyester mesh skin. Apartments, ranging from 861 square feet to 1,292 square feet, will each feature a sizable, 527-square-foot terrace or balcony.

The concept for Z-huset’s step-like appearance comes from “analyzing the different scale in the area,” says architect Dorte Mandrup Poulsen, “small at one side and large against a boulevard. Half the apartments have large terraces that have orientation either towards south or west.” He adds that locating the public space against the boulevard at the southeast elevation, which separates Z-huset from Light*house, affords it a non-windy space with sun in the morning.

Light*house and Z-huset are part of a 25-year harbor redevelopment scheme that will create 7.5 million square feet of new space for an expected residential and working population of 20,000. The tentative move-in date for residents is 2010.