Architectural Tetris

A new block of flats on the edge of Copenhagen, designed by Bjarke Ingels and Julien De Smedt of PLOT, was toured, analyzed, and photographically documented in last month’s issue of Metropolis. The article is by Tom Vanderbilt, a writer whose career I find well worth following. (Here’s his book).
The article will tell you a lot more about the project than this brief and hurried post will – but, basically, the building is like a huge game of architectural Tetris, with a bewildering variety of interlinked floorplans. Specifically, there are “76 floor plans in 221 units,” Vanderbilt writes, “with none repeated more than a dozen times and well over a dozen of them unique.” Further, he says, “flipping through the sales booklet, which has pages of unit plans, is like reading the assembly blueprints for some massive urban machine with interlocking component parts.”
So what does it look like? First, here are some 3D shape-diagrams for the “V block” of the building; they almost look like proteins – enzymes of European domesticity.

Below is the “M block.”

As Vanderbilt explains, the “V” and the “M” building shapes only entered into the design process after the architects “experimented with any number of permutations, the totality of which – collected on a display board – looks like some strange alphabet. They eventually settled on fashioning the south-facing block into a V and the north-facing block into an M. ‘By bending the shapes,’ Ingels says, ‘you open up the maximum toward the two canals, which ensures that the apartments, instead of just looking at one another, all have orientation toward the landscape.’ It also ensures that both evening and morning sun can enter the courtyard. The move shatters what would be a dense rectilinearity into a kind of crystalline parallax-view refraction of light and circulation.”
The whole complex was also finished with very tastefully bold, solid neo-Modernist colors. These eye-popping central corridors will, at the very least, wake you up every morning as you stumble out the door for work.

Finally, a note to property developers: “all 221 units sold out in three weeks, 80 percent on the first day.”
Good design pays.
Read more in Metropolis.

7 thoughts on “Architectural Tetris”

  1. What is the deal with ex OMA employees and acronym firm names? Perhaps one day Koolhaas will call them together in some sort of transformers-esque scene for the ultimate firm, REXOMAMVRDVPLOT, or maybe PLOTOMAREXMVRDV.

    Why do most architects feel it necessary to have flat vertical curtain wall exteriors? It would be easier to do this sort of thing if that were abandoned.

    But not like their balcony system abandoned. Like a shark maw. It looks like a balcony bomb exploded in their building and you see the shrapnel of it piercing through thin flesh windows. The project overall is pretty cool though.

  2. architectural tetris… well that reminds me of this:

    granted it was before my time at brown… but some “tech-house” programmers set up a live game of tetris in the windows of our tall science library. the documentation photos aren’t great, but i couldn’t resist adding that link to a post with this name.

  3. I think Lego needs to jump on this and create a set composed of these pieces. What a great way to stimulate the architectural child!

  4. I’m reminded of two things (not Tetris): Saarinen’s plan for Morse and Stiles Colleges at Yale where no two rooms are the same (at least on any floor) and Greg Lynn’s algorithmically-generated teapots, each with the same volume but different form.

    Morse and Stiles (the picture doesn’t show the variety but not a lot of plan pix available):

    … and try as I might, I can’t find the image of renderings of Lynn’s different teapots.

  5. And there’s also Sejma’s apartment wing in Gifu rocked the Tetris section back in the 90’s.

    There’s also a mention of playing tetris with high rise lights in Douglas Coupland’s jPod.

    Long live the Zeitgeist.

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