Nordic Built Challenge Finalist Proposal / FORA + Beth Hughes

Nordic Built Challenge Finalist Proposal / FORA + Beth Hughes

FORA and Beth Hughes, with Raul Moura and Tudor Vasiliu, have been selected as one of four finalists for the second phase of the Danish site in the Nordic Built Challenge - an open multidisciplinary design competition for the refurbishment of five buildings one in each Nordic country. Their proposal addresses the Ellebo Housing Estate in Ballerup, Denmark. The estate was built in 1963, and features four buildings for a total size of 20,000m2, enclosing playgrounds, playing fields and green recreational areas. Their challenge was to renovate the existing buildings and outdoor areas, and for 5,000m2 of additional housing. More images and architects' description after the break.

Nordic Built Challenge Finalist Proposal / FORA + Beth Hughes - Facade, Windows, Chair
Courtesy of FORA & Beth Hughes

Ellebo housing estate is a built manifesto of the modern ideal - collective housing blocks with shared facilities assembled around a large communal space, a flexible model that still offers a valid base for a new beginning. A refurbishment in the 1990´s altered the technical performance of the building and was the first step towards improving the spatial qualities of the dwellings. The introduction of closed balconies extended the living spaces but also separated the residents further from the outside. This cut explains the gap between the private and the collective realm. The renovation presents the opportunity to mend this rift, and reintroduce the communal and outdoor space as a fundamental quality of the place.

Nordic Built Challenge Finalist Proposal / FORA + Beth Hughes - Image 3 of 5
Courtesy of FORA & Beth Hughes

The ambition of the intervention is to amplify, enhance and build upon the underlying qualities of the existing scheme. The strategy relies on three principles: density, outing, community. By combining these elements, the project aims not only at improving the physical qualities of the Ellebo estate, but also plays an active role in bringing the community closer together.

Nordic Built Challenge Finalist Proposal / FORA + Beth Hughes - Image 4 of 5
site plan


The addition of new typologies to the existing blocks is an opportunity to positively increase the programmatic complexity of the housing estate. This new type offers different spatial quality from the existing, and can mutate to accommodate different uses over time. At the core of the penthouses is a convertible courtyard that brings natural light inside, also functioning as an active sustainable element.

Nordic Built Challenge Finalist Proposal / FORA + Beth Hughes - Image 5 of 5


The key challenge is to improve the spatial quality of the existing dwellings without changing the interior layout. A new layer of exterior space is added to the existing buildings: each flat is provided with a generous new balcony protected by a glass facade, sheltering it from the elements: a semi-exterior condition is generated, allowing for the space to be used most of the year - a collective winter garden that extends the private realm to the exterior. A mosaic of diversity becomes the new facade of the building, a communal space animated by the neighbors.


The central green – a vast area of valuable open space - has enormous potential as a community resource that is currently not utilized to its full potential. A collective program is injected into the inner plot: sports fields, children playgrounds and sitting areas. Through a participative process, surrounding the community facilities, the existing green field is divided into allotments/community gardens – the ground becomes a projection of the building’s façades.

Design: FORA + Beth Hughes
Location: Ballerup, Denmark
Environmental Design: Raul Moura
Visualization: Tudor Vasiliu
Competition Status: Finalist

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About this office
Cite: Alison Furuto. "Nordic Built Challenge Finalist Proposal / FORA + Beth Hughes" 12 Apr 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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