architecture as the ‘mother art’. As an art form that quite literally encapsulates all that we do, it’s hard to argue with him. Yet the great minds that lie behind our favourite buildings often receive little public credit.
Schmidt Hammer Lassen was established by a small group of architects working some 30 years ago in Denmark’s second city, Aarhus. Since the founding of the company back in 1986, the firm has expanded into offices all over the world. Now Schmidt Hammer Lassen is based out of five operating offices located in Copenhagen, London, Shanghai, Singapore and, of course, Aarhus.
Schmidt Hammer Lassen employs close to 150 people, from chief architects and engineers to draughtsmen and graphic artists.
Traditions and values
The practice’s commitment to democratic traditions in architecture is clear from its project selection. Comprising almost exclusively libraries, university spaces and cultural centres, Schmidt Hammer Lassen seek to create open, multi-functional spaces inspired by people. To Schmidt Hammer Lassen, each building should be a part of society, structured to provide maximum value to the public. Even within each space, open, communal areas are embraced over areas that disrupt and segregate.
In addition to the concept of democratic architecture, environmental responsibility and sustainability are prominent threads that run through the company catalogue.
Schmidt Hammer Lassen first came to prominence in 1997, with the opening of the Katuaq Culture Centre in Greenland. The prize-winning building showed not only an innovative and intelligent architectural design in its own right, but also complemented the surrounding space superbly, overlooking the central urban area in Nuuk.
More of the practice’s architecture has popped up all over the globe since. Among the best known is The Black Diamond – a waterfront extension of The Royal Library in Copenhagen. True to the firm’s multi-use philosophy, the black granite structure encompasses a 600-seat auditorium, exhibition space, a bookshop, two museums, a cafe and a restaurant. Notable works outside of Denmark include the University of Aberdeen New Library in Scotland and the City of Westminster College in London.
A key hallmark of the practice’s design style is their frequent use of natural light. For Schmidt Hammer Lassen, light represents a connection to the outside world filtering into their preference for sustainable design. This is most evident in the design of The Black Diamond’s top-lit atrium. Here, the architects have employed ample glazing that showers the lower atrium in natural light throughout the day.
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