Alex Poulsen Arkitekter: Re-shaping a more sustainable society
By Trine Jensen-Martin | Photos: Alex Poulsen Arkitekter
Awell-established company rooted in the traditions of Nordic architecture, Alex Poulsen Arkitekter strive to engage creatively and consciously with the world around them. Through inventive, socially viable and authentic projects, they aim to participate with and give back to society.
“We believe that our projects have to be of value to the community,” explains managing director and partner Jonas Hviid Mønster. Alex Poulsen Arkitekter (APA) do not claim to be unique, nor do they compare themselves with others or point fingers at people who do not follow their ethos. APA do what they love and do it their way. And they evidently enjoy the creative process and overcoming challenges throughout. Recently, two diverse projects did just this, while fitting under what Hviid Mønster calls “the umbrella of society”.
Jyderup prison – Denmark’s first all-female prison
A current APA project is the redevelopment of Denmark’s first all-female prison in more than 20 years, when the last prison for women in Amstrup closed its doors. Jyderup prison reopened on 11 October this year, now only housing female inmates.
APA has a long history of rebuilding social spaces, aiming to engage with societal needs without compromising on quality, comfort or functionality. The work on Jyderup is a prime example and encompasses many principal values of the company. The focus has been to create a space where all inmates feel safe, and where their everyday lives are markedly improved.
The importance of a sheltered space for female inmates is vital, and APA has been working closely with Kriminalforsorgen, the body in charge of the Danish penal system, to ensure that Jyderup is secure and practical, while being “welcoming and less institutionalised”, as Hviid Mønster puts it. Many of the women have children, and in this reimagined place, which includes family rooms, they can comfortably spend time with their relatives.
The new prison allows Kriminalforsorgen to provide targeted education and training to, and treatment for, these women, who make up four per cent of current Danish inmates. “We worked very closely with the prison staff and Kriminalforsorgen, ensuring that the day-to-day running of Jyderup remained largely unaffected by the changes we were putting in place,” says Hviid Mønster. “This was challenging, but also fun and satisfying to find solutions and overcome potential problems.”
The changes to the buildings were made while it was still operating as a prison for inmates of different genders, and the logistics of creating a different space in those circumstances were among the bigger challenges. It was a thoroughly planned yet organic project as a result, and the role of APA went beyond their expertise in designing high-security facilities; the ongoing liaison and dialogue with all involved parties was crucial.
Trifolium – A playful universe in Copenhagen’s Sydhavn
At the other end of the spectrum of APA’s portfolio is Trifolium, a creative re-shaping of an exciting property. The firm is staying true to its value DNA in terms of the essence of this project, yet this is a very different kind of space.
What is currently happening in Sydhavn is very exciting. “One of the most exhilarating things about this project is working alongside developers keen to create something truly original and off the scale, and joining forces with people who are already inhabiting some of the spaces in Sydhavn. It’s a really fun project to be a part of, genuinely passionate and challenging,” says Hviid Mønster.
The playfulness embedded in the development of Trifolium is evident, as is the thrill of teaming up with compatible creative and sustainably focused minds. The attention in the construction work itself is on reusing existing materials, including repairing old windows rather than replacing them, and using structures already in place instead of creating new ones.
Much of Trifolium is re-imagined rather than created, and Hviid Mønster explains how the nature of the place springs from what was already there, rather than being invented anew. The transformations taking place at Trifolium link directly back to the materials and colours originally used in the construction work in the ‘60s. “It is wonderful to be a part of this development at this stage, because the area still has an unapologetically authentic feel to it. It is inevitable that the nature of this place will change as it is developed over the next many years,” Hviid Mønster reflects.
Trifolium is an experiment for creative companies, who all contribute positively to the community, and it houses many different companies, people and passions. It plays an integral part in the redevelopment of the last pocket of undeveloped land in Copenhagen, and it seems fitting that APA plays a crucial part in the regeneration of this unique space.
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