Sjakket, a factory turned youth center, shoots up among the Danish suburban brick houses like a determined, multi-coloured dandelion in the asphalt-jungle. Bustling with bright colours, strong lights and airy open spaces while balancing the red ‘Ghetto Noise’ sound studio on top of its grass-covered roof terrace, the building is persistent in its attention-seeking and appeals to its users with a large portion of street cred.

It’s robust, rather than glossy, and the interior, with its steel details and brick walls, represents young, urban lifestyles. Meanwhile, the original shape and colour scheme of the industrial building has been kept externally. 

“We wanted to keep the industrial qualities, not least in the use of materials,” says Andreas Klok-Pedersen, one of the architects involved in the project. “With the coloured windows, we had a desire to bring life and colour to a rather grey part of Copenhagen. The windows reflect and represent the activities of the house.” 

Although the renovation of the building was subject to restrictions, as the exterior is protected from refurbishment on grounds of cultural heritage, the architects behind Sjakket used internal colours and lighting, such as the tinted windows, to achieve a transformation that would project itself onto the outer surface. “But we wanted to keep it simple and allow for as much natural light as possible.” says Klok-Pedersen. “We wanted the lighting to resemble that of an industrial building or workshop and draw on the construction’s original features.”

Surprisingly perhaps, the architects don’t seem to find the restrictions a problem. “The building had a cool architecture and a landmark character already. The restrictions posed nice limitations to the project. It meant that we could focus on smaller details to achieve a unique design. We wanted to emphasise and reinforce the original features rather than changing them.” says Klok-Pedersen.

The center caters for a culturally diverse neighbourhood in the north west of Copenhagen, an area marked by industrial activity, and offers the local youth study opportunities as well as venues for sport and music activities. With its unconventional approach to institutional buildings, Sjakket brings an inspiring contribution that interacts successfully with its surroundings. The red music studio is the only architectural addition and places the building firmly on Copenhagen’s industrial skyline.

The article was published in Forum AID Awards Supplement 2008