BLOX is a new six-storey mixed-use facility located in a prime location on Copenhagen’s harbour front. The new home for the Danish Architecture Centre (DAC) and the Realdania Foundation, it houses offices, exhibition spaces, an auditorium, restaurant, residential apartments and an automatic car stacker in the basement.

Won in competition with OMA, our engineers had to deliver a complex project on a site with severe constraints, having to build both under and over an arterial route and being adjacent to the harbour and Frederiksholms Kanal. Our brief was to revitalise a key city site left vacant and derelict for 60 years.

Maximising potential with 3D design

From the outset, the key to BLOX was an ambition to maximise the potential of the site. We adopted 3D design to rationalise the architectural ambition with a series of stacked volumes representing mismatched structural grids and developed a simplified Revit model which we integrated with the architectural model. 

The complex is designed as a stack of compact cubes each housing different functions within a structure that features significant cantilevers, long spans and double height volumes. Due to the complex interfaces between the structural truss beams, our structural engineers devised a construction sequence and demonstrated this to the contractor, Züblin. The deep basement of the existing building required significant excavation, and being  adjacent to the harbour wall and listed historic buildings, there was a significant risk damage to neighbouring structures. To mitigate this, we carefully planned, modelled and assessed the construction, paying close attention to potential changes in water level.

Putting pedestrians first

By spanning the Christians Brygge Ring Road, BLOX allows pedestrian access to the harbour without using the road which carries more than 25,000 cars a day. This solution actively links the city to the waterfront to encourage foot traffic.

Integrated sustainability

Our engineers worked closely with the client to address sustainability in a holistic manner. We provided design solutions to encourage energy efficiency, carbon neutrality, re-use of materials, embodied carbon and we also addressed socio-economic issues. 

A total strategy was developed to focus on reducing energy demand as much as possible, which was achieved through connection to the district heating and cooling, a high efficiency façade, and the use of photovoltaics to achieve the LE2015 energy target under Danish regulations.

Façade solutions

A key area we addressed was the building façade, which combined very ambitious energy efficiency and sustainability targets across the complex and fragmented geometry. 
Detailed thermal analyses were essential to achieve a naturally ventilated, highly insulated façade across the large number of interfaces. We called on the help of our Fire Engineers to plan an integrated design that gave adequate fire separation between stepping slabs and the intricate floor-to-floor interfaces. Both the structure and facade were considered as one to address potential movement of the cantilevered boxes.

Making the façade thermally efficient for the Danish climate was challenging, but opening vents and a number of bespoke details were inserted into the façade without compromising energy performance. The fully glazed facade also required some post-design modification to the performance of the triple glazed facades, using fritted and coloured glazing to improve thermal regulation.