AD Futures #7: JaJa

  • 03 Jun 2009
  • by
  • AD Futures

We are back with AD Futures, our series of articles that feature the most innovative young practices around the world, practices that i´m betting on their future.

This week, i present you JaJa, a Danish practice funded by Jakob Christensen and Jan Tanaka, the two Ja’s. Why did i pick them?

  • They are very young (pretty obvious for this section, but still worth mentioning).
  • They are doing some interesting designs, exploring different shapes and concepts, always challenging traditional program schemes.
  • They got the 4th place on the Stockholm Public Library expansion competition, a project with an interesting section.
  • They just got a site and a grant for their  own non-profit project: The Watchmans Hut. Architectural entrepreneurs.
  • They make a good use of their blog.

It´s funny how we found them, as someone recommended them on our Facebook group when we featured their Ormen Lange project.

And now onto two of their recent competitions, Book Hill and Hatlehol Church:

Book Hill

Program: Library – extension of Stockholm Public Library
Size: 17.000 m2 (9.000 m2 existing building)
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Type: Open 2-stage competition – short-listed amongst 1176 proposals.
Year: 2007
Status: Settled – fourth prize

Unfolding the full potential of both building and site, The Book Hill creates a coherent functional and programmatic composition that ensures a clear internal organization while merging the surrounding area into a unified entity.

The Site

Today, the site is characterized by the unfulfilled potentials of the inaccessible Observatory Hill and the programmatically dysfunctional Public Library.

The Observatory Hill is a green island perforating the urban fabric and is one of the city’s highest natural points with outstanding views of the Stockholm roofscape. But the steepness of the hill renders the hilltop inaccessible and under-used.

At the foot of the hill stands the iconic Asplund library and its three detached annexes which programmatically seperates the library into four unconnected buildings.

The New Stockholm Library

Instead of keeping the impractical annexes, we suggest an extension that programmatically brings The New Stockholm Public Library into one.

We propose to organize the new extension as a continuous boulevard starting from street level, then rising to the Asplund Rotunda and finally linking it to the Observatory Hill top, thus creating a transition between landscape and urban fabric.

The New Stockholm Public Library will be an urban mediascape where landscape and building, interior and exterior, old and new merges into one single entity.

The Media Boulevard and Short Cut

Fiction and scientific literature is divided into two. Asplunds Library will continue to house the entire fiction collection while the Book Hill is designed to hold the scientific literature.

In the Book Hill, the media is placed in a continuous order – like a string of pearls running through the entire building – forming the Media Boulevard and establishing a crystal clear organization to give the visitor an overview and a feeling of togetherness.

The Media Boulevard is like an internal winding road shaped by the contours of the building. It is conceived as a system of gently sloping 1:20 ramps where media, staff and visitors flow freely through the entire library creating an environment of meetings, knowledge and information.

Walking along the Media Boulevard, the visitor will encounter an unfolding of various spatial and programmatic experiences as one passes by the Main Entrance, Auditorium Foyer, Library Café Institute of Children’s Books, Learning Zone and finally the Observatory Restaurant. All of it leaves an impression of a diverse and lively Public Library.

The Media Boulevard is intersected by a Short Cut. The Short Cut is the spine of the Book Hill and is the axis connecting the main entrance directly to the Observatory Hill. The Short Cut is the rational route through the library – minimizing the distance from A to B.

The winding Media Boulevard and the rational Short Cut creates a combination of clear organization of media and efficient layout of movement.

The Roof Promenade

The roof of the Book Hill is a Roof Promenade with various library activities along the facade on one side and a view of the city on the other. One will feel the presence of the library during the entire walk along the promenade as activities from the Library Café, Learning Zone, Readers Garden and Observatory Restaurant inhabits the promenade. Passer-bys are invited in for spontaneous making The New Stockholm Public Library a part of the daily city life and an integral part of the city 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year.

Hatlehol Church

Program: Church
Size: 2.300 m2
Location: Ålesund, Norway
Type: Open competition
Year: 2009
Status: Settled

The Hatlehol Church is inspired the idea of the relation between heaven and earth. It is conceived as an extension of the existing landscape that stretches towards the heaven to form a peak and a new landmark for city and people. The Hatlehol Church will inscribe a new identity for the local community and become a beautiful space for religious, cultural and social activities.

The Hatlehol Church is placed on the highest part of the site and has its back and church tower against the main road. As travelers approach the church, they will experience the formal transition from landscape, arching roof and the tower.

The visitors, on the other hand, will experience the spatial relation between landscape, building, church hall and church tower.

As the congregation arrives, they will be able to glimpse the church tower amongst the treetops. From the parking lot, footpaths invite people in for a walk along the contours of the landscape where paths dances between the trees on their way to entrance. Standing on the church plaza in front of the entrance, it feels like standing at the foot of a mountain where the peak glides down to form the entrance.

Stepping into the lobby, the visitor will feel how the rising roof creates a natural spatial sequence that invites people into the church hall. In the church hall, the arched shape of the vast roof creates an experience of standing under a fantastic cloud formation that generously filters daylight in.

Like drifting clouds where the sun breaks through to light up the beautiful landscape, the church hall forms a beautiful meeting space for the congregation and God.

Cite: Basulto, David. "AD Futures #7: JaJa" 03 Jun 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 29 May 2015. <>
  • DiaphanousAbyss


  • thiago

    great and inspiring…

  • os

    jaja… destroying Erik Gunnar Asplund.

  • Wyatt O’Day

    Wow! Great work! reminds me alot of 3XN … the diagrams and models are really close to 3XN’s style.

  • borja

    gut madamme gut

  • YS

    Is the first work, Book hill, a sheer copy of one of the BIG’s work????????????????????
    here it is:

    • JG

      I really don’t know wether it’s a copy or not (shouldn’t be since its quite a predictable design and same competition) but it’s certainly a more sensitive approach on the way the landscape its built and by far more natural and appealing.
      It’s a shame that they (BIG) insist on developing the design just until 1 500 scale (and I’m not referring to competitions as these are an exception, but they do make everything look like a competition!).


    • David

      It is a competition, so the same idea its just casualty, it is the better way to respond the terrain

    • duh

      You don’t get it huh? They worked for BIG, they did BIGs projects. Probably BIG copied them. They are former talented interns in PLOT/BIG. Anyway none of this very original, since JDS/Julien de Smedt former partner in Plot did this:
      but I think there is no doubt JAJA did the best of those three.Then JDS. Then BIG.

  • cardoso

    same competition…same ideia… it´s not a copy

  • Wyatt O’Day

    Yea no kidding right! Looks incredibly similar to BIG’s project! I am amazed how they seem to copy the style of presentation and design of BIG’s works. Great design and project, but when I first looked at the proposal I wondered if this was either a BIG, 3XN, or Wiel Arets project.

  • Lucas Gray

    They are a nice firm…I look forward to seeing more of their work. The chapel is wonderful and the Library would be a great building although it seems the idea hit a few firms around the same time ;)

  • Daniel Con

    the models and diagrams are identical to BIG, but I love the opening page on their website! so cool! and the project about disaster recovery in New York

  • Lucas Gray

    their blog is also incredibly interesting

  • Palau

    BIG and 3XN have similar schemes to…. seems to me that all danish firms work with this schematic process…. also BIG makes it a lot easier to understand them..

  • Tarek sakkal


  • 16:08:78

    Is not about who copy who… it’s more about who manage best the idea…! I say JaJa

  • Joao

    JaJa and BIG = Rem Koolhaas’s sons.

  • Lasse

    I think it is like this. Bjarke Ingels (founder of BIG) worked for Rem Koolhas and Jacob and Jan had an internship + 6 months work at BIG..

    Godt arbejde drenge! Stokholm konkurrencen skulle have været jeres!

  • nizuu

    increadibly similar proposals! (jaja vs big)
    i think jaja’s better because of the connection to the mountain pretty obvius feature, but seems to be lacking in the big’s one)

  • Tanaka

    It has been fun and interesting to follow this discussion from the sideline.

    … and Lasse, you are right on the money. We did work for PLOT/BIG for 18 months and interns.

    The first Post-PLOT/BIG competition project we did was the competition for the stockholm public library.

    Imagine how suprised we, and Bjarke, were when the competition proposals was made public. Then we kinda realized that the apple didn’t fall far from the BIG tree… :-)

  • aem

    its a killer for asplund! some trendy stuff, not even beautifull.
    but i like the church.

  • Joshua

    The Drop submission for this was more successful in my opinion.

  • Opium

    drop was better but still none of the proposals are convincing. I’m going to stockholm in a run to see asplund’s work intact before they gang rape it with this stuff? asplund’s work is a masterpiece and this work as little or no respect for it…i lke the concept i just think it doesnt fit the site properly specially in the relation with the old building…appart from that i guess BIG or these guys are “koolhaasians” so this project reflects the jussieu project from OMA…a kind of less brilliant, second hand version of it…the church seems pretty good…speacially from inside…

  • Robert

    Is there an emerging trend for the mearging of building and landscape, in Danish Architecture? Recently at the International Dialogues talk at the RIBA in London I saw COBE ( present similar works. Is this something which is important in Danish Architectural thinking or is it a coincedence? I do agree with Opium that there is an OMA strand running through both JAJA and COBE.

    Read by COBE article:

    I do think the Church looks great. Again I feel it reminds me of other works by the likes of Aalto et al.

  • OV

    “Imagine how suprised we, and Bjarke, were when the competition proposals was made public. Then we kinda realized that the apple didn’t fall far from the BIG tree… :-)”

    BIG has a very unique graphic aesthetic and distinct mode of representation that they have been developing since the PLOT days, which most likely originated from their time spent at OMA and elsewhere. The judges of the Stockholm competition, I am positive, recognized this style suspecting it was BIG or maybe even JDS. I’m sure they were surprised when they found out it wasn’t BIG but this unknown JaJa. I figure, Jaja is pretty smart in that they knew they could double their chances in placing a prize in this competition if they “borrowed” from their former employer. Maybe I am projecting.

    It is kind of unclear to me when Tanaka says above that his team was surprised when the proposals were revealed to the public. I find it interesting that the third partner in JaJa also worked on BIG’s team for this same competition. They were clearly influenced by BIG to the point they felt the need to mimic a similar proposal.

    Lastly, it is quite disappointing to see a young, driven, and talented studio masking themselves behind the identity of another architecture office. I would hope to see in the future that JaJa learns to develop their own voice and identity. And I’m not talking just about this competition. Your drawings, diagrams, models, and website presence I feel need to be re-evaluated to serve your vision, not anyone else’s. The problem with architecture is that when we are not there to speak about our ideas, our imagery has the obligation to represent us. So it is necessary for the representation we create, to be as unique as our own thoughts. Please take this as constructive criticism. I do enjoy your work.

    • duh

      I used to work for Bjarke too, and this comment from OV is a little disrespectful. There is incorrect information e.g. the third partner of Jaja became a partner much later. And very often it is in fact the other way around; BIG is constantly headhunting people who worked for OMA/MVRDV and NL to get their latest ideas, but of course only mentions Bjarke Ingels, who rarely designs. People like JaJa working their buts of for nothing feeding BIG with ideas, should not make excuses nor smileys. They too develop BIG. Imagine how surprised JDS got – knowing that BIG could still access their server at the time! Also BIG/Plot was not even that known at the time. Do you think Rem wrote comments like this to PLOT, when they clearly copy pasted OMAs project? You cannot argue that what JaJa does is sad without putting BIG in the same sad position. BIG is on top of this constantly reusing PLOT project designed by e.g. Julien de Smedt – renaming them and calling it evolution – without crediting him. Maybe they are just really short of ideas at BIG. More occupied with communication than architecture. It is hard not to recognize how it was Julien de Smedts design talent and Bjarke Ingels communication skills, that made PLOT a succes.One must wonder if you even understand the derivative architecture og BIG too place such comments? You are also offending jury (professionals and lay people) by thinking that they judge by graphics of 200 proposals and from this would pick a “nobody” office at the time. Please take this as constructive critisism.

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  • Brittany

    amazing ..bravo!!

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