The new saw-toothed Maritime Museum in the small Norwegian port town of Porsgrunn by Danish architects COBE and TRANSFORM manages to fit into its surroundings, by mirroring the shapes of the town's characteristic gabled roofs, while at the same time appearing contemporary with its abstract shape and aluminum facades.
By Margarida N. Waco
Centred around an architectural philosophy that emphasizes the importance of the local and social, COBE is characterized as one of the offices representing The New Wave of Danish architecture. With projects ranging from building design, urban spaces and master planning, COBE has, in only a very few years, succeeded in winning various awards and acknowledgements domestically as well as abroad.
Common for this branch of young Danish architectural offices established in the years after 2000 is not necessarily the need to adapt to the scandinavian design tradition which historically has predetermined architectural solutions. They rather present a more pragmatic approach and thereby underline the importance of functionality in relation to aesthetics. Furthermore, these new offices counting COBE, BIG, Transform and Adept amongst others, have managed to brand Danish architecture in a way that has facilitated a new narrative emphasizing a straightforwardness through architecture as a social engine.
Since its establishment COBE has proved to be a visionary office uniting architecture and social interaction to a degree that has been internationally recognized with awards for best visionary building (Adidas Halftime, 2015), best residential development (Krøyers Plads, 2015), best refurbished building (The Library, 2012) and not to mention the Golden Lion for best national pavilion (Venice Biennale, 2006).
Initially based in Copenhagen, COBE was founded in 2005 by Danish architect Dan Stubbergaard (b. 1974) and German prof. Vanessa Miriam Carlow (b. 1975). Named after both Copenhagen and Berlin where the two founding partners originate, the office was established with a strong philosophy illuminating the importance of social engagement, which up until today has become the defining aspect in several proposals. Ever since 2012 when the company was split into two separate offices based in both Berlin and Copenhagen, the two offices still manage to collaborate on selected projects with one another apart from their individual proposals.
Presenting a portfolio that stresses design projects ranging in scale from institutions as kindergartens and libraries, to urban infrastructure such as the Nørreport Station and the Nordhavn masterplan, COBE continually incorporates their approach towards the local and social aspect. And additionally, with a strong will to take a stand on current public matters, the offices characterized as The New Wave seek to merge architectural design and urban planning with social responsibility when asking themselves; what architecture can give back to society. As in the case with The Silo, a new 17 storey luxury apartment tower in Copenhagen, where COBE manages to drag the public sphere into a building by providing publicly accessible spaces both on the bottom and on the top floor.
By strongly appealing to functionality, COBE continuously seeks to aim each of their projects towards the lived life and therefore the user. Each architectural project features both thorough analysis, as well as descriptive diagrams stressing the preliminary work before an actual proposal.
Apart from that, COBE is particularly well known for including the local context and thereby respond to some of the criticism on contemporary architecture such as the fact that it tends to focus less on the context. A criticism that COBE nevertheless cleverly responds to by for instance proposing The Library, a hybrid between a culture house and a traditional library, in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Copenhagen. In other words, a building that manages to facilitate an intercultural social interaction when gathering a large group of people with different nationalities under the same roof.
View COBE's website here.
With the extension of an existing culture house combined with a brand new library and concert hall, the otherwise anonymous and worn-down Northwestern part of Copenhagen has gotten a highly distinguishable icon.