Welcome to tomorrow’s community centre

New multi-purpose cultural centres are springing up, and according to two experts, we can expect to see even more. This places considerable demands on both architects and building technicians.

Designing multi-purpose cultural centres can be tricky, as they often need to accommodate everything from teaching and sporting activities to cultural and social events.

Communal meals, bingo, sport and private parties. Within the past few years, a number of multi-purpose cultural centres have seen the light of day, and they look set to become tomorrow’s meeting places for local citizens in both towns and villages. 

– A multi-purpose cultural centre is a modern community centre where associations and societies, businesses and citizens can meet for handball matches, knitting clubs, talks and a whole range of other activities. Sometimes the buildings are also used by the local library or Citizens’ Services, says Peter Ørting, chairman of the National Association of Cultural Centres in Denmark, whose members are the approx. 100 multi-purpose cultural centres.

– The new cultural centres are either established in existing buildings, for example former schools, where the facilities are transformed to suit the new requirements, or they can be built from scratch, explains Peter Ørting.


We want flexibility

Helle Nørgaard, a senior researcher at SBi, the Danish Building Research Institute in Denmark, has prepared a report that sheds light on the importance of multi-purpose cultural centres for society.

– Multi-purpose cultural centres serve as informal meeting places. Unlike sports clubs, for example, users do not pay a fixed annual subscription and come along every Monday all year round. Instead, they will go to the cultural centre when it suits them, and depending on what’s on offer, says Helle Nørgaard.

– This is also why the multi-purpose cultural centres in large cities are proving so successful. There are, of course, plenty of other sporting activities and cultural events, but the multi-purpose cultural centres organise a much more flexible range of events, and are a bit like extended living rooms, and this appeals a lot to families with young children as well as many young people, explains Helle Nørgaard.


Layout must be multifunctional

The multi-purpose cultural centres have to accommodate many different activities, and this places certain demands on the interior design. However, the most important parameter is that they are multifunctional.

– Creating multi-purpose cultural centres is hard work because the interior has to house everything from intimate salsa classes to concerts. For example, ideally a room should be scalable, depending on how many people are going to use it, and then it also needs to be possible to change its function in a very short space of time, says Peter Ørting.


Committed local citizens are the driving force

In Denmark, multi-purpose cultural centres are often built with outside support, such as public funding and funds from private foundations or raised privately. However, private ownership is also gaining traction, with Folkehuset Absalon in Copenhagen as one of the leading examples. Regardless of the sources of financing, local commitment is important if the centre is going to be a success. 

– The most important driving force for a multi-purpose cultural centre is having a large group of citizens who are involved in the development and running of the centre and who are involved in initiating and developing activities. The basis for developing multi-purpose cultural centres is undoubtedly the interests of local citizens, says Helle Nørgaard.

Read also: Copenhagen church now a thriving community centre


Peter Ørting, Chairman of the National Association of Cultural Centres in Denmark.


Helle Nørgaard, Senior researcher at SBi, the Danish Building Research Institute.