Fjordenhus: A Castle by the Sea

By Melissa Sorge
Photography by Anders Sune Berg

Project: Fjordenhus
Design: Studio Olafur Eliasson
Location: Vejle, Denmark
Completed: 2018

In the Danish town of Vejle, immersed in a large fjord surrounded by forested hills, Fjordenhus stands, tall and alluring, somewhere in between the city and the water. By day, the structure shimmers, a reflection of the calm fjord waters. By night, the building burnishes, an illuminated beacon for boaters, drivers, and pedestrians. Ever changing, Fjordenhus’ surface moves with the tides of the water in which it rests. The structure’s walls curve, like the battlements of a modern Danish castle,  embarking its visitors on a journey of the senses. Fjordenhus was designed for the eye of the beholder–a transformative architectural structure as interpretative as it is beautiful and functional.

June 9, 2018, marked the official opening of Fjordenhus, a true architectural marvel designed by artist Olafur Eliasson in Vejle, Denmark. Commissioned by Kirk Kapital, a Danish business and investment company, for use as their central headquarters, Fjordenhus is the first structure fully-designed by Eliasson and his design team, Studio Olafur Eliasson—along with the expertise of architect Sebastian Behmann.

FjordenhusEliasson was born and raised in both Iceland and Denmark, where he gained a deep appreciation for the arts. He studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, and upon graduating founded his own design company. Studio Olafur Eliasson is comprised of over 100 artisans with varying talents from craftsmen and architects to researchers and art historians. Eliasson founded his studio with a drive to influence the world through art, which he believes can spark critical action within society.   

Throughout his career, Eliasson has made a name for himself and his design studio through award-winning projects around the globe. His exhibitions have been featured in multiple major cities including Denmark, London, New York, Berlin, Paris, Shanghai, Seoul, and Beijing, among others. In addition to his achievements as an artist, Eliasson has also devoted his time to positively influence his community, working as a professor at the Berlin University of the Arts and working in conjunction with engineer Frederik Ottesen to start Little Sun—a business that helps provide clean, affordable energy sources to those without access to electricity. With Eliasson’s multifaceted talents and interests, it comes as no surprise that he is the artistic force behind the incomparable Fjordenhus.

FjordenhusWhile the project took approximately five years to build, it reflects years of research on physical movement, perception, nature, and space. The end result is a structure that will, undoubtedly, be a timeless work of art and local landmark in its community, as well as a fully functional work space.

FjordenhusWith the help and expertise of his design team, as well as architect Sebastian Behmann, Eliasson ensured that even the most minute details were accounted for in the fabrication of Fjordenhus. In keeping with the organic feel of the project, the main building materials used to construct Fjordenhus were Danish bricks. At a glance, the bricks look flawless–perfectly aligned–but as visitors take a closer look, they will notice the intricacy with which the bricks were placed. A variety of laying patterns coupled with multiple color tones add depth to the inner and outer walls, changing visitors’ perceptions based on the angle, the time of day, and the weather conditions.

Upon entering Fjordenhus, by way of a lengthy footbridge, guests are instantly mesmerized by the ornate furniture, artwork, and lighting designed by Eliasson and his team. The custom designed furniture was created primarily from wood and consists of sleek built-ins as well as freestanding pieces that are as imaginative as they ares functional. The artwork throughout the building was intentionally created to please the eye of the viewer while simultaneously drawing their gaze toward the fjord and its ever-changing water, creating a dialogue between the artwork, the viewer, and the building’s natural setting. All of the lighting fixtures inside Fjordenhus were also designed by Eliasson and his team, utilizing LED bulbs to maximize energy efficiency while respecting the environment.

Eliasson and his team have lofty aspirations for Fjordenhus. While it will continue to function as the headquarters for Kirk Kapital, Eliasson also wants it to become a source of pride, inspiration, and introspection for the community of Vejle. Eliasson states, “More relational than monumental, Fjordenhus is co-created by its shifting fjord context as well as by the people experiencing it. It makes you conscious of your own presence–conscious not only that you are seeing the building, but that the building is also seeing you.”