Ellen von Loon Interview: Contaminating Architecture

Meet architect Ellen van Loon, the Dutch ‘design duchess’ of the world-renowned Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), who here talks about the ideas and “architectural contamination” that went into creating the new multifunctional BLOX building in the heart of Copenhagen, Denmark: “I think it was the right task for us, this site, because nobody really knew what to do with it… and it had to do with re-inventing mixed-use, reinventing DAC and re-inventing this area of Copenhagen.”

“You can’t just go through the building, the building is made in such a way that you do have to interact with it.” Van Loon was interested in mixing the various functions of BLOX – which contains DAC (Danish Architecture Center), exhibition spaces, offices and co-working spaces, a café, a bookstore, a fitness centre, a restaurant, twenty-two apartments and an underground public car park – meaning that the users in the building can use each other’s space. She hopes that the building will attract a lot of people, and that the various users and residents, as well as visitors, will interact: “The dream was a mixing chamber to the max.”

The building is an architectural statement, placed in a historic part of Copenhagen with small, old houses and the waterfront to keep in mind. The main purpose, however, was to create “a good space where you can explain architecture to the visitors of this building.” In connection to DAC, they wanted to “embed them in their own field of study” by placing them in the centre of the building, which meant that they would “contaminate all the other functions.” Moreover, the scale of the pixelated building presents an opportunity to show architecture in a much larger scale as well as connecting other art forms to the museum, thus making it a venue devoted to not only architecture but also design and urban culture.

Ellen van Loon (b. 1963) is a Dutch architect and partner at OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture), an international practice operating within the traditional boundaries of architecture and urbanism. Based in Rotterdam, van Loon joined OMA in 1998, and alongside eight partners including Rem Koolhaas, Reinier de Graaf, Shohei Shigematsu, Iyad Alsaka, David Gianotten, Chris van Duijn, Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli and Jason Long, she has led several award-winning building projects around the world. Some of the most significant contributions include New Court, Rothschild Bank Headquarters in London, the G-Star Headquarters in Amsterdam, Maggie’s Centre in Glasgow, De Rotterdam in Rotterdam, Casa da Musica in Porto, and BLOX in Copenhagen, which is fronted by herself and Rem Koolhaas. Van Loon is the recipient of awards such as the 2007 RIBA Award and the European Union Mies van der Rohe award (2005).

Ellen van Loon was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner at BLOX in Copenhagen, Denmark in January 2018. For more about BLOX see: https://www.blox.dk/english

Camera: Klaus Elmer
Edited by: Klaus Elmer
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2018
Supported by Dreyers Fond

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