Sophus Søbye Arkitekter ApS: Redefining boundaries and building bridges
The portfolio includes everything from a church conversion and private housing to cultural centres, schools and scout huts, but the starting point is always the same for Copenhagen-based architecture practice Sophus Søbye Architects: they work to push boundaries and improve lives.
TEXT: CAMILLA PEDERSEN | MAIN IMAGE: MARIEHØJ CULTURAL CENTRE’S SLOPING ROOF SCOOPS UP FROM THE GROUND AT THE LOWEST PART OF THE SITE AND OVER THE RIDGE OF AN EXISTING BLOCK, CONNECTING THE ARRIVAL AREA, THE CULTURAL PLAZA AND THE BEAUTIFUL BACKYARD. PHOTO: RASMUS HJORTSHOJ
“Being an architect is all about creating spaces that change people’s lives for the better. This is what makes architecture meaningful,” says Sophus Søbye, MAA, founder and owner of Sophus Søbye Architects. A short trip to the south-east coast of Greenland will serve as an illustrious example of one of the firm’s current projects that will do just that. In the small town of Tasiilaq, a Youth Culture House is currently taking shape – a project that is shaped by the voices and dreams of the town’s young people, who make up a big percentage of Tasiilaq’s 2,100 inhabitants.
“Interviews with the children and young people in the town have served as the foundation for the project. These kids need somewhere to meet and hang out in their spare time, and this is exactly what they’ll be able to do once the project is completed. It will be a safe place where they can enjoy being part of a community, explore various activities including music, dance, theatre and storytelling, and just have fun and nurture dreams and aspirations for their future life,” says Søbye. The culture house is mainly an investment into the future of the youth, but it will also benefit other inhabitants, with activities that build bridges across generations.
“Many of the projects we’re involved with come to life out of an ambition to create connections and build bridges – between people, cultures, materials; buildings and nature, and in some ways even the past, present and future,” Søbye explains. Mariehøj Cultural Centre in Holte, just north of Copenhagen, is a good example of how the architecture practice makes nature and architecture blend. In collaboration with WE Architecture, Sophus Søbye Architects has created an S-shaped aluminium roof extension that unites the cultural centre’s two separate buildings. Not only has the striking shape of the roof been inspired by the surrounding hilly landscape that it also blends in with, the roof extension also creates a link between new and old architecture.
Built to last
Søbye enjoys experimenting with synergies between buildings and landscapes, but also between materials. This has earned the architecture practice several awards, including the Odense Municipality Architecture Award and In-Situ Prisen (‘the in-situ prize’) by Dansk Beton – both for Hindemosehus, a scout hut in Odense, which unites in-situ concrete sandwich walls with wood. “Concrete encompasses an unparalleled simplicity and honesty that I really love. The same goes for wood. It can take any form and character, depending on how it is treated. Using high-quality materials sourced from nature is rewarded in so many ways, and not just aesthetically. High-quality materials give buildings a longer life and earn more respect from their users. It doesn’t matter how good an idea is to begin with if the quality and craftmanship are compromised,” Søbye explains.
Having worked for some of Denmark’s leading architecture firms, including Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), CF Møller and Entasis Architects, Søbye knows what he is talking about. While aesthetics and sustainability are important criteria in the firm’s work, authenticity is equally non-negotiable. “Many projects have the potential to turn a building into a piece of architecture, but it calls for a certain respect for architecture as a profession – as well as an understanding that each project is unique and needs to be treated accordingly with its unique context, end user and priorities in mind. This is where the architect comes into play, partly by redefining the boundaries for what can be achieved. I try to turn things upside down. Spaces are not stationary; quite the contrary. They are full of potential, and it is my job as an architect to unfold that potential so the spaces can be used and enjoyed in multiple ways by many different people,” Søbye finishes.
About Sophus Søbye Architects
Founded by Sophus Søbye, Architect MAA, in 2004, Sophus Søbye Architects is an architecture practice based in Copenhagen. The dedicated team consists of four permanent employees, but with a large professional network, a team of experts is put together for each assignment, covering conceptual design study developments, planning and design, sustainability, economics, con-struction management and supervision.
Subscribe to Our Newsletter
Receive our monthly newsletter by email