Southern Harbour Church

MUTOPIA’s proposal for the ‘Southern Harbour Church’ aims at supporting the transformation of the former industrial area of the Island of Teglholmen situated in the inner-harbour area of Copenhagen into a new urban district by providing a hot-spot for culture, contemplation and community life.


Mixed programs as a new identity

MUTOPIA’s answer to the international competition brief was to envision a new identity for the church as a mix of interacting programs, in response to the latest usage tendencies of Danish churches as places for lectures and concerts, community dining, children’s church, open house for homeless and many other activities.


‘Family of arches’

A ‘family of arches’ provides an open and welcoming façade reflecting the multitude of different programs which frame the church space as a hollow stepped pyramid easily accessible directly from street level, and gradually narrowing upwards. The four stepped corner ‘legs’, containing infrastructure, administration and culture related program, are interconnected with bridges, creating multiple interaction possibilities between church and everyday activities, thereby contributing to a true ‘People’s Church’ as a combined space for worship and everyday life. The legs support the roof level, which contains the main culture program including three large flexible ‘black box’ theatres, along with a horseshoe- shaped foyer and several service functions.


A flexible ‘infinity space’

The cruciform plan disposition marked by the 4 programmatic legs defines a flexible and versatile church space whose niches and gradual narrowing upwards creates a sense of infinity further accentuated by the depth effect provided by the many arches.


The cruciform geometry of the church space makes it suitable for many different uses, and the movable furniture is supportive of this flexibility. The entrance to the church is through the weaponhouse located next to the harbour in the N-S axis of the building, while altar and baptismal font are placed towards East in the East-West axis as a tribute to the traditional church orientation, which in the same time brings into focus the ever-changing water space of the adjacent canal as a source for reflection and introvert mood.


On the East and the West side, the church space ‘shows’ itself throughout the full height of the facades: to the West, a large staircase leads up to the roof garden; to the East, a double height space extends the church up to the building's maximum height over the altar.


On the first floor, the colonnades of the 4 corner ‘legs’ are interconnected with larger bridges which double as balconies. The open colonnades can be used as ‘acoustic spaces’ which, together with the bridges, enables a wide range of options for choir placement and sound experiments.


The ‘EYE’

The large facade surfaces require light and heat control to avoid overheating and light nuisance within the grand church space. A moving system of shutters creates a flexible system for light and temperature control with references to the Christian symbolism, which in the same time provides the church facade with an atmospheric expression.


Noah’s rooftop garden

Situated at the intersection of the two promenades of the island, the church tower contains a public staircase as a continuation of the public realm leading to a rooftop garden fully accessible to the public also outside the church opening hours, and featuring a combination of community gardens, seating areas, glasshouses and beehives, along with several animal sculptures – outdoor pavilions ivy-clad to enhance the garden experience as a green Noah’s ark and a destination with great harbour views for local residents, children and visitors.


Strong sustainable agenda

The robust and flexible building comes with a strong sustainable agenda, including rainwater harvesting, natural ventilation, an ‘intelligent’ façade, as well as a climate friendly cooling&heating system. To welcome the needs for cooling of the cultural program and heating of the church space, MUTOPIA propose a seawater cooling system, which enables significant electricity and CO2 savings. The cultural program, along with the secondary functions enclosing the church, and heat recycling achieved by circulating water used to cool the culture program through the church floor all contribute to the heating of the church. CO2 emissions from users of the cultural program are led to the greenhouses on the roof where plants absorb it and convert it into new plant material.


MUTOPIA’s proposal inscribes the church volume into the surrounding context of urban blocks as a fully accessible, highly sustainable and spatially innovative social mixer. By defining the sacred space as a negative of profane space, the seemingly opposite functions are interconnected and integrated, just like yin and yang, into a new, dynamic and vital whole.


Client: Sydhavn Sogns Menighedsråd/Southern Harbour Parish Church Association

Program: new church and cultural program, 3.200m2 gross floor area

Year: 2016

Location: Sydhavnen/Southern Harbour, Copenhagen

Team: Serban Cornea, Kristina Jordt Adsersen, Henrik Ulsfort, Giulia Ronco, Giulia Bortolozzo, Andrea Hernandez

Collaborators: Regnestuen Engineers, Morten Stræde Sculptor

Budget: 82 mio kr

Status: international competition