Architectural impressions from three Danish cities

Using travel to broaden architectural vision and spark innovation within the practice, a small group from BPAS Architects visited three cities in Denmark, including the home of Lego in Billund, the historic town of Odense and the architectural marvels of Copenhagen.  

Walls & Roofs spoke to the BPAS team about what stood out at each of these locations, and the lessons for South African architecture.  

Billund impressions – the birthplace of Lego 

The overriding impression of Billund is that it is not just the home of Lego, it is Lego. Many of the facilities have been built by, or for, the company – an airport to bring visitors in, hotels to house them and infrastructure to ship Lego’s products more efficiently. In doing so, the town is imbued with a playful nature. 


Lego House – Billund, Denmark.

The public spaces are safe areas that encourage curiosity and exploration of the local, natural environment. These exploration zones are in sharp contrast to the South African tendency to visit a shopping mall to express curiosity. This offers a fenced-off experience, with no flow or intervention to engage with the environment. 

“The notable takeaway from our visit to Billund is witnessing how a product can seamlessly integrate into a community and become a catalyst for environmental development. The environment transformed into a playful surrounding, where buildings, offices, hotels, play parks, and various facilities were organised into a cohesive programme, all deriving inspiration and vitality from Lego, ultimately enhancing the overall environment,” comments Landseer Collen, founder of BPAS Architects. 

Odense, a heritage observed and protected  

With archaeological evidence suggesting that the area has been settled since the Stone Age, Odense has many stories to tell, including those of one of its most famous residents, Hans Christian Anderson. This rich tradition, the buildings and the environment demand respect, with litter and vandalism not tolerated. 


ODEON Cultural Centre – Odense, Denmark.

Odense shows consideration for and integration of its people with the thoughtful utilisation of space. Rejuvenation versus building something new is key, with a focus on recycling, reusing and adapting materials. The result is a cohesive architectural style – all simple brick buildings with a few stand-out elements like the museum, which is highlighted by the overall simplicity of the city. 

A key takeaway from Odense is that public spaces should be educational, with added elements that encourage participation and interaction. More attention should be given locally to how spaces should be used, in ways that preserve the heritage and experience of these places. 

“The essence we drew from Odense is the powerful principle of adaptation. It’s not about constructing something entirely new; it’s about leveraging existing elements, learning from them, and then modernizing with contemporary materials and principles. Another notable aspect witnessed in the city was the pedestrianisation and the inventive utilisation of materials,” says Collen.  

Copenhagen, a metropolitan capital city 

The many bridges of Copenhagen are a reminder of its strong trade routes, a visual representation of expansion and growth. Creativity is cultivated, encouraged and celebrated, with good design embraced by society. 

It is a very people-focused city, with streets that encourage engagement, providing places to stop and experience life. Most people live in apartments, an equality of living space with shared green and social spaces. Cars are not seen as part of an individual’s identity, so parking is a central garage structure shared by the neighbourhood, no longer dictating the urban landscape. 


Park & Play, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Copenhagen’s architecture unlocks opportunities by using spaces multiple times, whereas in South Africa, the approach is more singular. The focus locally is on the minutia of day-to-day issues, rather than the long-term goals, so that the perspective about the future is diffused.  

South Africa needs to unlock the barriers, including financial ones, to find a balance between capital costs and profit. With expected returns clearly expressed, these issues can be addressed. 

“Copenhagen stands out as a pinnacle in architecture, urban design, and material innovation. The city’s perpetual drive for expansion and development ensures a constant influx of new and refreshing elements. Copenhagen architects exhibit forward-thinking, applying conscientious design principles that prioritise the environment and celebrate pedestrian-centric spaces. The city’s lifestyle inherently values architecture, integrating intentional design seamlessly into the urban fabric. This experience emphasised the transformative power of forward-thinking within a community,” he adds. 

“It’s crucial, however, to avoid the misconception that European architectural approaches can be directly applied to the South African landscape. While there are similarities, the unique landscapes and cultures in South Africa offer untapped potential. Unlocking this wealth will shape our distinct identity and architecture, embracing the rich diversity of South African society. We can enhance our own environment and contribute to the continual improvement of our architectural landscape,” Collen notes. 

Exploring and experiencing the architecture in other countries highlights opportunities and promotes creative solutions for local design. 

 Full acknowledgement and thanks go t0…

https://www.bpas.co.za/ for the information in this article.  

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