High-ceilinged and inclusive community centre

On Sønder Boulevard in the Vesterbro district of Copenhagen, the former Absalon Church blends into the street with its red brick facade and modest towers, but outside the classic arched entrance, the pavement is packed with prams and bicycles. The renovation of this former church as a new community centre has been an unqualified success since its doors opened.

That it used to be a church is still very evident. And yet... it resembles a large-scale living room, where the whole family is gathered. With simple means, the venue has been transformed into a highly flexible community centre hosting a wealth of different activities throughout the day.

At Absalon, you will find communal dining, chess, yoga, bingo, record fairs, dancing and much more. Everyone is welcome – and everyone is here. The place is welcoming with its friendly atmosphere, homely furniture and long curtains and high shelves, which are designed to reduce the church-like scale and make the large space feel more intimate.

The church’s spacious axes have been broken by installing a gallery at a height of five metres along one wall. This has led to the creation of several distinct spaces, and from the upper level it is possible to follow what is happening in the hall below. The gallery also frames the entrance to the kitchen, which is situated just beside the main hall. Like the ceiling in the hall, the underside of the gallery is clad in black Troldtekt, which ensures good acoustics, and enables people to communicate easily with one another.

The space is no longer used for sermons and organ music (the reverberation time used to be more than 11 seconds), but for social gatherings of all sorts, such as communal dining for 250 people. The artist Tal R was commissioned to decorate the interior of the former church with bright colours, so there is now a considerable contrast between inside and out. The bold colours and are used throughout the entire building, which has thus lost its feeling of solemnity, creating a cheerful environment for social gatherings and the mixed palette of activities.

Facts

Project:
Renovation of the former Absalon Church as a community centre in Copenhagen, Denmark
Architects:
Arcgency
Client:
Lennart Lajboschitz, founder of the Tiger chain of stores
Troldtekt Products
Ceiling panels:
Troldtekt acoustic panels
Colour:
Painted black 207
Structure:
Fine (1.5 mm wood wool)
Edge design:
Square edge, K0, fitted with Troldtekt screws
Text & Photos
Text:
Helene Høyer Mikkelsen, architect
Photos:
Helene Høyer Mikkelsen, architect

Awards

The community centre is the winner of the Danish Association of Architects’ Lille Arne 2017 award, which was presented at the association’s New Year’s levee in Copenhagen on 27 January. The Lille Arne award recognises initiatives, realised and unrealised projects and innovative ideas which have fostered debate or influenced the architectural profession.

Absalon community centre was also nominated for the Danish Retrofit Award 2017 (Renoverprisen), which is awarded to the best building renovation project.