Working with irreplaceable places is an exhilarating struggle. It’s a negotiation between place, history, culture, and the architect brought in to create new meaning: To highlight the existing and create new relevance. Read about the Danish architect Dorte Mandrup who redesigns supremely difficult sites.
Copenhagen-based Danish architect Dorte Mandrup-Poulsen (born 28 July 1961) is the founder and creative director of the architectural practice Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter A/S that has approximately 60 employees. Her company is behind several internationally acclaimed buildings.
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Mandrup pursued training in sculpture and medicine before finally succumbing to the call of design. As a student at the Aarhus School of Architecture, she researched the lightweight constructions of Japanese architect Toyo Ito while her classmates took sides in the then-raging debate between post- and neo-Modernism. After graduation, she did a brief stint with Henning Larsen and launched her eponymous firm in 1999.
We hallenge places and accentuate its inherited qualities
“Equipped with an artistic footing and a scientific toolbox, we challenge a place and accentuate its inherent qualities. We contrast the existing and create tension between the character of the place and the architectural design that elevates the meaning of the place,” she states on her website.
Dorte Mandrup’s work is characterized by being conceptually strong as well as innovative in terms of form and material, but also by an analytical approach to architecture. She has for instance transformed a 1921 seaplane hangar on Copenhagen’s Holmen islands into an office.
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She soon picked up a series of commissions for designs that showcased her aversion to orthodoxy. She installed tracks on which panels of parachute fabric roll back and forth to divide the workspace. (The scheme steers between dueling philosophies, that an architect should either return a historic space to its original form, or smash a wildly contemporary addition onto it.) Thus, Mandrup is promoting the student’s perspective, and “fighting hard for the view that childhood should be magical, and for a place where adults are not always correcting or controlling the game.”
Trusted with responsibility
“That is what we demand of ourselves when we are trusted with the responsibility to re-imagine or create an irreplaceable place – to evoke its core and illuminate its potential,” is one of ther statements.
Among several acclaimed architectural unfoldings, Dorte Mandrup is behind the Wadden Sea Centre at the Danish West Coast, the Icefjord Centre by the UNESCO trail in Ilulissat in Greenland, and the Danish clothing company Bestseller’s upcoming mixed use development in Brande.
The Danish architect who redesigns supremely difficult sites
In 2017, Dorte Mandrup caused an international stir with her opinion piece ”I am not a female architect. I am an architect” in Dezeen, in which she discussed gender politics within the world of architecture.
Mandrup insists that her acts of defiance are not committed for the sake of contrarianism, but because nuanced problems deserve equally un-straightforward solutions.
The Danish Architect Who Redesigns Supremely Difficult Sites, written by Tor Kjolberg
Feature image (on top): The Salling Tower. All images ©: Dorte Mandrup