The Vilhelm Lauritzen Terminal, Copenhagen Airport

  • Client

    Copenhagen Airport

  • Location

    Vilhelm Lauritzens Alle 1, 2770 Kastrup, Denmark

  • Area

    4,000 m²

  • Status

    Completed in 1939

  • Award

    Diploma for Hovedstadens forskønnelse (2001), MIPIM Award "Refurbished Office Buildings" (2002), Europe Nostra honorary medal for preservation of European cultural heritage (2003)

A modernist masterpiece preserved

Copenhagen Airport first began operations on a grass field in 1925. In the late 1930s, Vilhelm Lauritzen designed the first airport terminal, which is now internationally recognised as a principal example of Danish modernist architecture. 

To understand how groundbreaking the award-winning terminal was, it must be seen in its contemporaries. It is from a time when architecture had long focused on the shape, ornamentation and decoration of the buildings. Instead, Vilhelm Lauritzen created the shape of the building based on its function.

At the beginning of the 1930’s, commercial air travel was a novel phenomenon. There was no typology for what an airport should look like. As a true functionalist, Lauritzen divided the design into airside and landside sections. With the entrance and land traffic along one side of a longitudinal building, and the exit and ‘airside’ along the other, it served as a model for many modern airport buildings.

An impressive space with an undulating ceiling

The entrance and exit to the runways are located in one-third of the terminal at one end, lending a sense of gravity to the busiest end of the concourse. The restaurant’s double-curved façade shape is an element that frequently occurs in Lauritzen’s architecture and that of other architects of the time. It can be regarded as a loan from Cubist painters such as Picasso and Braque, whose pictures often feature the outlines of guitars. 

 

An undulating, reinforced concrete roof covers the concourse. Despite its thickness of only 12cm, the undulating roof is extremely robust. Seen from the concourse, the ceiling lends lightness, as if it were a cloth about to blow away in the Amager wind.

 

The airport terminal has tactile, visual, and aural qualities, but was not an expensive building like the Radio House. It was made from cheaper, more industrial materials. The striking brass banister on the staircase and the Greenland marble cladding at the entrances are exceptions. Several of the walls are clad with Junker’s beech parquet.

 

The terminal building was listed in 1998, and one night in September 1999, the entire building was moved on coupled flatbed trucks 3.8 km across the apron and the runways to its current location. Vilhelm Lauritzen Architects provided architectural assistance in the context of the renovation, restoration, and recreation of the original building.

 

Today the terminal is used to receive VIPs in the airport: for example, heads of state.

Europa Nostra, European Heritage Honorary Medal

“For the extraordinary preservation of a gem of modernist architecture and one of the most outstanding airport terminals from 1939.”

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