The 7,400m2 new headquarters for Copenhagen-based housing association KAB, is a building at a crossroads -literally and metaphorically. Located on the axis of two major streets in Copenhagen, between one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods and one of its newest, the building bridges Danish office culture with home life. The building is a gathering place for 44 housing organizations, approx. 120,000 residents and provides the framework for KAB's 400 employees' daily work.
The architectural approach to the KAB House is a deceptively literal one, taking traditional elements of the home – the living room, the stairs, the garden, the kitchen – and applying them to the workplace. Things begin traditionally office-like: The ground level is open and airy, the large reception desk flanked by a plant-filled seating area behind which the office canteen nestles. It is once you make your way up the stairs that the feeling changes.
Within the atrium, nearly everything is clad in wood, giving the space a soft, 'hyggelig' feeling and adding scent and texture not often associated with the workplace. The slender stairs cut back and forth across the middle of the atrium, alighting on large community kitchens on each floor.
The western edge of the atrium is a wall of windows, behind which the main meeting rooms – outfitted to resemble rooms in a house – and office are located. This move marks the border between the private workplaces for KAB and the space that is accessible to the public, while also suggesting something a little more subtle. When you peek into the windows of the meeting rooms from the stairs, you are observing a household at work.
For all the cues inside, the KAB House could hardly be mistaken for a home on the outside. Located in a ‘leftover’ space that is not quite in but rather between several neighborhoods and perched on a multi-layered intersection that sees traffic from cars, buses, bikes, and trains, KAB is located squarely in the center in Copenhagen’s sites for future growth.
In response to this medial situation, this house is designed with no front or back, its pentagonal shape opening onto the city on all sides and framing views on to Vesterbro, Sydhavn, Carlsberg, and Valby. The sturdy, red-brick exterior evokes the materiality and pragmatism of the properties it has overseen since the 1930s, with some flair in the bricklaying that is unmistakably contemporary.