Dorte Mandrup, the chic of ethical architecture


In 2003, Copenhagen City Hall launched an architectural competition for a sports center in the northern Amager district. This area, which a narrow arm of the sea separates from the center of the Danish capital, was then divided between old industrial sites at the end of their course and workers' housing. The new equipment was part of a plan to revitalize the sector. It was to be erected on the site of a parking lot where drug dealers had made their headquarters, with the aim of getting young people off the street. Little known at the time, Dorte Mandrup won the competition. His building has become a beacon of the district, which has since been largely gentrified.

The night, the Crystal glows like a big firefly. During the day, its translucent shell catches the light which spreads evenly inside and awakens the beautiful green of the linoleum that lines the floor of the large sports hall, the beating heart of the building. The immense volume is impossible to grasp in its entirety from the entrance. The large vertical openings, which run from the mezzanine to the back of the building, hide from view. These spaces to which no function has been assigned, where anyone can come and slump on one of the large mattresses that have been laid out on the floor, are the soul of the project.

Dorte Mandrup does not believe that architecture can transform society. She doesn't believe new equipment is driving semi-delinquents to sign up for sports. She believes, however, that a new building, beautiful and well designed, can improve their daily lives. For this he must offer himself unconditionally. That it presents itself as one of those outdoor spaces where they used to hang out, free and open to everyone, protected, simply, by an envelope.

Powerful aesthetics

For this, it needed to provide more space than the Copenhagen City Hall had planned, and it did so by saving on materials. An approach associated, in France, with 2021 Pritzker Prize winners, Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal, which can produce, when skillfully driven, a powerful aesthetic. The grandiose volume outlined by the facade in polycarbonate, an economical material par excellence, this light, so soft, which filters through its surface, gives the building the air of a secular cathedral.

At 61, Dorte Mandrup is one of the most prominent architects in her country. In recent years, she has also been building beyond borders, mainly in Sweden and Germany, museums, educational establishments, projects related to nature... In 2018, she caused a sensation at the Venice Biennale with an installation inspired by the Center Icefjord, a project that she would deliver three years later, in a frozen fjord in Greenland.

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