Mountain Dwellings / BIG with JDS

Architects: BIG Architects
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Partner in Charge: Bjarke Ingles for , Julien De Smedt for JDS
Project Architect: Jakob Lange
Project Leader: Finn Nørkjær
Project Manager: Jan Borgstrøm
Construction Manager: Henrick Poulsen
Contributors: Annette Jensen, Dariusz Bojarski, Dennis Rasmussen, Eva Hviid-Nielsen, Joao Vieira Costa, Jørn Jensen, Karsten V. Vestergaard, Karsten Hammer Hansen, Leon Rost, Louise Steffensen, Malte Rosenquist, Mia Frederiksen, Ole Elkjær-Larsen, Ole Nannberg, Roberto Rosales Salazar, Rong Bin, Sophus Søbye, Søren Lambertsen, Wataru Tanaka
Collaborators: JDS/JULIEN DE SMEDT ARCHITECTS, Moe & Brødsgaard, Freddy Madsen Rådgivende Ingeniører ApS
Client: Høpfner A/S
Engineering: Moe & Brodsgaard
Construction: DS Elcobyg A/S /PH Montage
Project year: 2008
Constructed Area: 33,000 sqm
Photographs: Dragor Luft, Jacob Boserup, Jens Lindhe, Ulrik Jantzen

How do you combine the splendours of the suburban backyard with the social intensity of urban density?

The Mountain Dwellings are the 2nd generation of the VM Houses – same client, same size and same street. The program, however, is 2/3 and 1/3 living. What if the area became the base upon which to place terraced housing – like a concrete hillside covered by a thin layer of housing, cascading from the 11th floor to the street edge? Rather than doing two separate buildings next to each other – a and a housing block – we decided to merge the two functions into a symbiotic relationship. The area needs to be connected to the street, and the homes require sunlight, fresh air and views, thus all apartments have roof gardens facing the sun, amazing views and on the 10th floor. The Mountain Dwellings appear as a suburban neighbourhood of garden homes flowing over a 10-storey building – suburban living with urban density.

section 01

The roof gardens consist of a terrace and a garden with plants changing character according to the changing seasons. The building has a huge watering system which maintains the roof gardens. The only thing that separates the apartment and the garden is a glass façade with sliding doors to provide light and fresh air.

The residents of the 80 apartments will be the first in Orestaden to have the possibility of parking directly outside their homes. The gigantic parking area contains 480 parking spots and a sloping elevator that moves along the mountain’s inner walls. In some places the ceiling height is up to 16 meters which gives the impression of a cathedral-like space.

The north and west facades are covered by perforated aluminium plates, which let in air and light to the parking area. The holes in the facade form a huge reproduction of Mount Everest. At day the holes in the aluminium plates will appear black on the bright aluminium, and the gigantic picture will resemble that of a rough rasterized photo. At night time the facade will be lit from the inside and appear as a photo negative in different colours as each floor in the parking area has different colours.

The Mountain Dwellings is located in Orestad city and offer the best of two worlds: closeness to the hectic city life in the centre of Copenhagen, and the tranquillity characteristic of suburban life.

Cite: "Mountain Dwellings / BIG with JDS" 11 Mar 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 28 May 2015. <>
  • odris

    wow, stunning!

  • pete

    SORRY, but It’s Horrible

  • roadkill

    classic piece of danish crap… despite their ‘democratic’ approach the result is just scandalous

    • Neebs

      This housing is like a supermodel, it has the appeal but is missing some important things for a relationship to work… The parking space is nonsensical because it is placed in a city where nobody owns a car. 1/3 of the population ride bicycles and there is a subway stop located directly next to it. Both times I visited there were about 30 cars for the 480 spots. Also the hallways were very uncomfortable spaces. They were tight and the colors were like a slap in the face. Also very cheap looking and already showing wear.

      • Carol

        Actually the parking and housing dimensions where given by the client. Instead of having a regular building next to a huge parking lot they develope this strategy.

    • alessandro

      you do not understand the architecture

  • Martin

    Great idea with a better resolution.
    More than 80 apartments, everyone with its courtyard and its own parking slot. Not many buildings in the world have this features.

  • NMiller

    How is this scandalous? The housing is a little overly repetitive in form, but I find it to be a rather provocative planning strategy for a development that called for 2/3 parking, 1/3 housing..

    Perhaps, if ever use of automobiles dwindle, the garage can be infilled with other programs that transform it into a dense mixed use.

  • Richie

    It’s a very interesting approach with the mix of uses but the uniform array of identical houses is sort of frightening. I think I’d feel like I was living in a beehive trying to pick my house out of that grid..

    • bullaasf

      from the outside the apartments make look (kind of) the same, but really, they are not! 1/3 of the apartments are not only different from the other 2/3, bu also totally unique! In other words, if you live in one of those, it will be the only one of its kind in the building…

      • Ralph Kent

        This isn’t, actually, that surprising or special. I have lived in numerous flat which are uniquely designed in a block, owing to a tight site, and I have, like I expect the majority of people on here, worked on designs for blocks where there are numerous ‘specials’ – in terms of unit designs – within a residential scheme. I think to point that out as a key feature of this building is somewhat clutching at straws to make it sound more interesting that it really is.

    • bullaasf

      actually, this link with explain t better:

  • Richie

    (Maybe some trees planted on each lot, a bit of conversion or extension work done on each house, etc.. will give it a more organic and varied appearance).

  • Shawn

    Does anyone else think that no matter what the form turned out to be, there’s something fundamentally wrong about a program of 1/3 housing 2/3 carpark?

    I would have thought that sort of planning would be forbidden is most European countries by now…

  • IMHO

    one of the best contemporary housing projects! rspct for all bjarke s kids.

  • sgurin

    Хорошее решение.BIG молодцы.
    Good reshenie.BIG Well done.

  • kevin

    amazing work. complex and simple at the same time, application of colors in the right proportions. I agree with NMIller on
    the carparking issue. However how great a client has been convinced to go that way. Loving the danish uprise. So much talent out there. Hopefully the economic storm won t have a too
    hard impact on future projects.

  • Peter

    About the large parkingspace. It serves as parking for the nearby buildings. It’s all part of the urban masterplan of Ørestaden. All parking is centralized, and horribly expensive. A parking license to “Mountain Dwellings” is 168 USD per month as we speak. And you still have to look for a free spot.

  • Ricko

    I find it funny when people say “sorry, but it’s horrible”. I feel like answering “ok, I forgive you”… so, what would most of the critics do with such a program and with such restraints? a parking “box” and a tower on top? It’s impossible to not admit that it’s a brilliant answer, even if you dislike its final form.

  • Jiri K.

    I have seen this project already long time ago and still I think that it is one of the best architectural works in the recent years.

  • David


  • Laura

    It’s like any park proyect, once the people move in and the plants are growing, everything changes and starts looking organic. The identity comes with the owners.
    About the parking space, it’s good that they thought the problem and came out with an excellent solution.

  • eno

    Well Done,BIG.
    By the way,where’s its location?Does it change into BIG’s practice center?More than one buildings are their Projects,aren’t they?

  • M

    to all the people talking about the 1/3 housing and 2/3 parking …. go and read about the project and the reason it is like that, and stop talking bull”/%&/%!.
    hate it when people talking withouth thinking.

  • roadkill

    clearly a case of Brokeback Mountain… if the end justify the means then this is a triumph of danish design. well done, stay tuned coz you’ll hear a lot more about this project – maybe they can convert it all to a giant car park, it sure has the aesthetics for it. Like most projects by big, it is lazy and reduced to simple diagram like approach design that serves no purpose.

  • kc

    I find this project intimidating. Especially if I was living in the detached house next to it…no way

  • JoftheBx

    outstanding solution. 480 spaces for 80 units would be 6 per unit… so obviously the parking is there for other reasons as well. btw- a stand alone parking structure for this many spaces would be 6 stories and around 120′ x 270′. we all know what most of those look like.

  • PaCh

    Capo della montagna

    It seems to me like sb spent a wonderful vacation time in some Mediterranean island like Santorini,Greece or Positano,Italy maybe to come up with an idea like this

    Take care

  • Andy H

    This building is pretty cool when you see it at night but, like all the buildings in this area, it was designed to look at while whizzing by on the elevated train that goes through the entire area. The building is horribly out of scale when you walk down the street. The 480 spaces are needed because there are no grocery stores in Ørsted so everyone has to drive into Copenhagen to buy a carton of milk.

    • scott

      Ørestad is lame because almost all of the commercial activity is concentrated in Field’s Mall, but there is a Netto across the street from VM Husene…don’t go overboard.

  • Ralph Kent

    Any photos of the rump end of it? I’d be interested to see how that solid slab face running down from the peak of the ‘mountain’ plays out urbanistically in the years ahead.

  • Peter

    @Andy H
    That’s not true.

    @Arch Daily
    It is not a reproduction of Mount Everest, even though the peak can be found. But it’s small and hidden and you should know what to look for.

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  • Openminded Arch

    Despite the -repeatedly- standard critique to any design that is not late modernist, or god forbid, have an improved solution for the programme, this has been nominated

    Again! This time by MIPIM!

    Before that BEST HOUSING at


    Even though its not a purely functional piece ‘like we always do’ architecture roadkill and others prefer.

    Hmm Strange

  • Cornelius
  • carmen

    another awful example of Koolhaus-induced built diagrams. Ørestad (where this building is) is a lifeless development without any urban activity because of projects like this. street life anyone?!?!?!

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