Henning Larsen Designs Largest Wood Building in Denmark

The project shows how architects can adapt to this new world of upfront carbon.

view of building from water

Henning Larsen

Danish architecture firm Henning Larsen is good with wood, as we saw with their controversial proposal for Fælledby. Now it is proposing the largest contemporary wood structure in Denmark in Nordhavn, the former industrial port that is now a giant construction site. The architects note that Nordhavn is "a testing ground for prototypical concepts, from self-driving buses to buildings made of recycled bricks," not to mention a school clad in solar panels.

Henning Larsen is testing how far it can push wood construction as a substitute for concrete, noting the 300,000 square foot building being developed for a pension fund "puts UN's sustainable development goals first."

exterior of Henning Larsen office building

Henning Larsen

"Sustainability is key in the upcoming multiuser office building at Marmormolen in Copenhagen's Nordhavn, as the structure of the building will be entirely wooden. As the case against concrete construction gains more evidence, solid timber is emerging as leader in the list of sustainable alternatives. Timber, in stark contrast to concrete, stores embodied carbon. Thus, by swapping out the structural concrete with timber, the structure will embed tons of carbon instead of emitting tons."

exterior of Henning Larsen building

Henning Larsen

“Today, it is imperative that architecture challenges our usual notion of structures and materials. The construction industry is a major emitter of CO2, and we therefore also have great opportunities to make things better," says Søren Øllgaard, partner and design director at Henning Larsen.

Interior of office space ground floor of Henning Larsen

Henning Larsen

The usual notion of the office has changed as well because of the pandemic. This building seems designed to draw people back: It is surrounded by green space and near shops, restaurants and public transit. It is the "antithesis of a traditional and introverted domicile." It is supposed to be "a marketplace for ideas."

exterior of building at grade

Henning Larsen

“Workplaces used to be very interior and exclusive, but people today want to feel they are a part of a more diverse community and open up to their surroundings. With Marmormolen we want to create more than a great office building, we also want it to give something back to the city and makes the building come alive – even outside office hours,” says Mikkel Eskildsen, associate design director and lead design architect on the project.

Ground Floor of Henning Larsen

Henning Larsen

The ground floor will have an auditorium which will double as a public eatery and a venue for theaters and flea markets. On upper levels, "workplaces enjoy views of uninterrupted skies, the sea and the skyline of Copenhagen."

Harpa Concert Hall in Iceland
Henning Larsen and Olafur Eliasson's Harpa Concert hall.

Lloyd Alter

It is interesting to see how an architecture firm can evolve over a decade. Henning Larsen is famous for the Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center in Reykjavik, Iceland, with its facade of glass and steel designed in collaboration with artist Olafur Eliasson. The Harpa is pretty much a demonstration of how to maximize upfront carbon emissions—there is so much steel and glass and concrete in this building. Nobody had ever heard of embodied carbon in 2011 and mass timber had not yet made it out of Austria.

View from water of Henning Larsen building

Henning Larsen

Henning Larsen's Denmark structure sits on a different waterfront and is almost exactly the same size as Harpa, designed 10 years later. It is hard to imagine two more completely different buildings. Some firms have not been able to adapt to this new world where upfront carbon matters—Henning Larsen shows how it's done.