Apartments in the Constable School
2014 - 2015

Sus­tain­able her­itage ren­o­va­tion

Affordable student housing in the old functionalist building

The Margretheholm islet in Copenhagen housed the Danish Navy for centuries. The constable school building from 1939 had been abandoned for decades and was technically in a bad shape.

In 2014, the entire islet was transformed into a new neighborhood that we designed for the developer group Sjælsø. With a relatively small budget, we were commisioned to also transform the listed building to accomodate affordable apartments for students.

Our approach was to maintain as much of the original and worn character of the building and emphasize the contrast between new and old.

The project won the Renovate Prize (RENOVERprisen) 2016 for best renovation.

Da Konstabelskolen er en af de eneste oprindelige bygninger på Margretheholm, var det vigtigt for os at få bevaret så meget som muligt af den oprindelige bygnings materialitet. Derfor er ydervæggene inde i lejlighederne helt rå og bygningen er isoleret udvendigt. For samtidigt at understrege den gamle murstensfacade, har vi friholdt udvalgte områder af den oprindelige facade. I den efterisolerede facade har vi sat overstørrelse vinduer i. På den måde forbliver den oprindelige teglmur omkring vinduesåbningerne synlig og boligerne får maksimalt dagslys, når muren her ikke er alt for tyk.

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On the art of renovation

”We believe that the art of renovation contributes significantly to sustainable construction and refines the cultural ressources of our building culture. When we carefully preserve and transform beautiful buildings, it saves virgin ressources as well as life cycle energy ”

- Søren Nielsen, architect MAA, partner


The Constable School is one of Denmark’s early functionalist building, constructed in 1939. The facade is clad in exposed brick hiding that the building is constructed with columns and beams in the - at the time - new material reinforced concrete. Brick fill out the concrete frames for interior walls.

Colors and material heritage

The building is completely refurbished as small affordable apartments and the navy history is reflected in the selection of colors. Traditional colors seen in the column mosaic are used on the new floors in hallways, cast in the industrial material PUR. Blue and yellow could be found in the original building – grey is a new color and inspired from the color of the naval fleet.


The Constable School renovation is an excellent example of how a listed building can be redesigned with new functions and large user qualities and in respect of the history and architecture of the building.

– Anne Skovbo, director of philanthropy in Realdania.

New coat for the functionalist building

The approach to insulating the building is part of its aesthetic expression, affording a clear reading of the ’infrastructure’. The original masonry is left exposed at entrances and stairways. Here, the building is insulated on the inside.

Oversized windows

Apartments receive maximum daylight when the wall thickness around the window sills are thin. With the oversize windows there is a clear outlook while inviting bypassers to look at the historical layers and proportions of the facade.

Windows are lined with plywood. The larger windows are transformed to bay windows that affords sitting.

Heritage in a brand new neighborhood

The transformed Constable School offers a strong historical quality to the brand new neighborhood at Margretheholm. It bears witness of the military origins of the islet. The project displays a classic approach of Vandkunsten Architecs – we constantly fall in love with what is; the lived and weathered materials. We favor minimal but clear design concepts to frame good homes and tell the story of the place and the building.

Raw concrete

The original loadbearing concrete structure has been reused and the apartments follow the system of beams and columns. The concrete has been cleaned and left exposed to emphasize the structure.

Project facts


Project name: Apartments in the Constable School

Category:Housing, Renovation

Client: Sjælsø Margretheholm A/S

Location: Copenhagen

Gross area: 3.400

Date: 2014 - 2015

Status: Finished

Number of units: 84 apartments

Cost of construction: DKK 38 mio


Program: Student apartments

Activity: Renovation and transformation

Job type: Commission

Construction system: Load-bearing concrete structure with masonry facades.

Contact: Søren Nielsen,

Project group: Kristian Westh, Thomas Nybo Rasmussen, Julie Gjettermann Bergelin


Architect: Vandkunsten

Engineer: Erik Pedersen A/S

Consultant: Architect MAA Christoffer Pilgaard