The Danish architectural firm 3XN prides itself on a Nordic sensibility that combines natural materials with an abstract, dynamic, modernist approach. Established in 1986 in Aarhus, the firm, which gained prominence with its design for the Royal Danish Embassy in Berlin (1999), moved to Copenhagen in 2004. As it increasingly won large-scale commissions, such as the Saxo Bank in Copenhagen (2009), its own loftlike warehouse space facing the harbor in Christianshavn felt more and more cramped. With 100 people, 3XN'which refers to the surnames of its three founders, Kim Nielsen, Hans Nielsen, and Lars Nielsen (none related)'decided to relocate. Last December, the architects moved into five of 32 wood buildings once used by the Royal Danish Navy for the repair and storage of military gunboats in Holmen, a group of small islands in the city. From 1690 to 1993, Holmen had served as the navy's base, but after its departure, the area, not far from the Copenhagen Opera House, began to turn into a cultural enclave. The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts schools and educational facilities for theater and music are now located there, and the black-stained wood gunboat sheds are being renovated and leased to assorted businesses in fields such as media, advertising, and architecture.
As 3XN's creative director, and sole remaining founder, Kim Nielsen says, 'We needed to be together to share knowledge, and now we have 22,000 square feet on the same floor.' In renovating the red tile roofs and lark-wood landmark structures, built in 1860, 3XN only enclosed five meeting rooms, leaving the rest of the space open. Here, Nielsen notes, the firm can display architectural models, which 'we refer to all the time as we develop our ideas.'
Skylights, along with glass partitions and doors, admit ample illumination; white acoustical plaster on the ceiling brightens the exposed wood-framed interiors while modulating noise. Glass walls with views of the water bring a sense of calm to a busy work environment. As is customary in Copenhagen's design world, the ship-like office includes a large communal kitchen for lunch, lectures, and other gatherings. Nearby, 3XN's research group, GXN, comes up with solutions for new technologies and sustainability in a setting that combines a respect for the vernacular and the new.
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Kim Herforth Nielsen, Architect MAA, AIA, RIBA
Architect of record:
Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing (MEP) Engineer (company name):
Leif Larsen Ventilation
Lighting: Flos Scandinavia
HK Byg Enterprise A/S
21,528 square feet
glass partition system for meeting rooms by HK Byg
Photo mural by Damgaard-Jensen
Arper (conference tables)
Interior ambient lighting:
Light Installation (in canteen): Studio Steven Scott