The architect behind Maltfabrikken: "For us, it’s about stepping back a bit and letting the building do the talking"

Praksis Arkitekter conceived the transformation of the old malt factory in Ebeltoft, which is now used as a cultural centre and meeting place. Read about the firm’s approach and the experiences the architects took with them from the project.

16.05.2024

In 2020, Ebeltoft was given a new and distinctive landmark: Ny Malt. The red limewashed factory building with the sawtooth roof from 1861, standing between the pedestrian street and harbour, opened its doors as a new cultural centre and meeting place for locals and visitors.

The building received several awards that same year in recognition of its transformation, including Building of the Year 2020, the LOOP Awards 2020, the South Djursland Architecture and Conservation Award 2020 and a nomination for the Mies van Der Rohe Award 2020.

Praksis Arkitekter won the contract for updating the dilapidated factory premises. They would no longer be used for brewing beer but instead house a restaurant, library, shop, offices and several art and cultural experiences for young and old alike.

– "We're very pleased with the fact that we've managed to get the 'old' Maltfabrikken to play the main role in the architecture. But also the fact that a small square has emerged with urban life and interaction around the buildings. It's become a very friendly, warm and inviting place that welcomes all age groups," says Mette Tony, architect and owner of Praksis Arkitekter.

Troldtekt acoustic panels in black and white painted variants are included in the design of Maltfabrikken.

A balance between new and old materials

In explaining the selection of the winning proposal from Praksis Arkitekter, it was stated that, "It is particularly impressive that Maltfabrikken’s characteristic red protrusions continue in the new architecture. The factory’s iconic character reinforces the original volume and distinctive expression. This creates a homogeneous and unifying building mass that opens up to the surrounding courtyards at ground level and welcomes everyone."

Mette Tony explains that their approach to transformations of historical buildings in general is that the old should play the main role in the architecture – because that is where the uniqueness lies.

– "In short, the strategy was to strengthen the historical buildings and renovate them. The key was therefore in finding the right balance between the original elements and the new ones we needed to add. We only proposed new, smaller design tweaks, so that the historical element was always the main focus. It was an expensive decision, and it would have been cheaper, for example, to build a new library instead of inserting one into an old factory.

– "The materials we added needed to be subtle and help reinforce the historical aspect – rather than stealing the spotlight. For the same reason, it can be difficult to tell what's new and what's old. Instead, you want to experience the whole. However, a new entrance building, lift and basement have been added, because the building also has to be modern and accessible, and we had to ensure a good indoor climate, but still in a historical setting," says Mette Tony.

Photo: Laura Stamer
Mette Tony and Mads Bjørn Hansen from Praksis Arkitekter.

Letting the building do the talking

Mette Tony explains that a great deal of the project worked well and went according to plan, as there was good organisation behind the project and a clear idea of the direction Maltfabrikken should take.

Maltfabrikken is owned by the Municipality of South Djursland and the Den Ny Maltfabrik Foundation.

– "One of the biggest challenges with transformations, – both with Maltfabrikken and in general, – is always that you don't have a complete overview of the condition of the building from the start. You acquire it along the way. But there are certain criteria in terms of the schedule and finances that you need to fulfil, which can be challenging when you don't know the building.

The design studio was also able to draw on its many experiences from Maltfabrikken in other and more recent projects, including Spritfabrikken in Aalborg, which is also about 'expanding on an historical building in a healthy way'", explains Mette Tony:

– "We’ve learnt a lot. For us as architects, it’s especially about stepping into the background and letting the building do the talking.

But just because the project in Ebeltoft has been completed, the development of areas around the building has not necessarily been fully completed yet." A new pavilion was subsequently erected:

– "Even though it’s a small thing, I like the idea that Maltfabrikken is a facility that can be expanded and rebuilt and adapted to suit the time and the needs of the day. This will allow us to continue the life of the building, just as we did during the transformation," Mette says.

 

Read more about Maltfrabrikken's transformation here