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INTERVIEW

The Automobile as Guest

Christoffer Brøchmann Christensen

Photo: Jens Lindhe

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The Automobile as Guest

  • Interview Marie Bruun Yde
  • Photos Jens Lindhe

For the Classic Car House, Lundgaard & Tranberg sought to transform the existing location, with its old buildings and garden, without dissipating its magic. How was this site, so permeated by cultural history, given a new function? An interview with project architect Christoffer Brøchmann Christensen.

In converting the premises, how did you succeed in preserving the fairytale quality of the historical architecture?

We took up characteristic traits of the old and propelled them toward the new. Given the altered function of the old Agricultural Museum, features like loadbearing capacity, for example, had to be augmented greatly, necessitating the building’s reinforcement, the incorporation of new steel structures. We attempted to introduce these new elements in the spirit of the building’s original style. With regard to materiality and the shapes and sizes of the roofs, we adapted the new buildings to the preexisting brick structures, achieving balance between the earlier buildings and a new industrial expression with its clear glass sections, its steel and brick.

The museum’s content has shifted as well. How did the automobile as an exhibition object influence your work?

We worked with the automobile as a concept. Most museums display a broad palette of objects, while the automobile is a very specific type of exhibit. So much love went into designing the bodies of these vintage cars, and painstaking care was invested in technical details. We wanted to see this quality reflected in the architecture. The spaces were made for automobiles, and upon completion, when they were still empty, we found they were too large for people. But once the cars had been installed, the scale of the spaces seemed just right.

The car hotel represents the largest volume of the Classic Car House. How did you approach the idea of the automobile as guest?

From the outside, the halls containing the car hotel take up the scale of the Agricultural Museum, set opposite, with another broad, uninterrupted space opening up within. We drew productive impulses from the client’s desire to convey the living spirit of automobile culture as a hobby. While both the permanent and temporary exhibitions are only there to be looked at, the car hotel in particular represents a lively atmosphere: owners arrive here daily, drive their cars, have them repaired, meeting with other vintage car fans. This means that the Classic Car House is no dead museum, but instead provides a framework for a living community.

Set across from the Classic Car House is the national Open Air Museum, with its 50 historical buildings set on a surface area measuring 40 hectares. How did its presence influence your work?

As a whole, the Open Air Museum shares a number of things with the Classic Car House. At the Open Air Museum, various types of farmhouses are distributed throughout the landscape and linked by paths. Our project was inspired by the way visitors move around the Open Air Museum and its landscape, by the progression of diverse temporalities and building styles. The Open Air Museum was also the inspiration for the pavilions of the Classic Car House, which interconnect the various programs through a new form of expression.

Why pavilions?

The new buildings were to have less weight within the hierarchy, to avoid drowning out the older ones. The scale is not exactly that of a pavilion, the buildings are larger, but they do have the ethereal quality, the interrelatedness of interior and exterior, and the contact with a garden that is characteristic of a pavilion. The large trees, protected by a preservation order, showed the way: we wanted to create a cohesive progression between the buildings, with the park in the middle as a kind of point of rest. The park anchors the buildings, and is a connecting link for everything. The new architecture refers in particular to the old Agricultural Museum, with its classical design and large hipped roof.

Other buildings by Lundgaard & Tranberg also consist of oversized roofs, or indeed exclusively of roofs.
That’s context-dependent and here, the context called for roofs. The project is characterized by the large roof surfaces and the motif of the gable. In various ways, the new buildings paraphrase the hipped roof of the Agricultural Museum and the gabled roof of the Virumgård. Apart from the practical aspect of a pitched roof that serves as the upper terminus of a building, and the technical aspects of avoiding the building up of water, I find roofs aesthetically appealing because they mean that the building doesn’t simply stop at the eaves.

Site plan
The car hotel consists of six assembled buildings that form a large, open interior space.

Architects

Lundgaard & Tranberg Arkitekter was founded by Boje Lundgaard and Lene Tranberg in Copenhagen in 1985. The firm is known for innovation, collaboration, and leadership in connection with the design and realization of buildings, landscapes, urban planning, and product design. Their approach is unconditionally regional and contextual. Lundgaard & Tranberg draw upon the Nordic architectural tradition whose key virtues are humanism, craftsmanship, and simplification, and with its emphasis on productive interactions with culture, light, and landscape.

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