Renovation of the Atrium Houses (Gårdhusene)
Albertslund South (Albertslund Syd)
2014 - 2022

Sus­tain­able trans­for­ma­tion

Preservation through transformation

The Atrium Houses in Albertslund South belong to the generation of large-scale, low-rise, high-density developments that shot up in Danish suburbs in the 1960s. An industrialized and uniform development in a technical quality that, unfortunately, has called for improvement through numerous renovations over the years. As part of a project competition, Vandkunsten paved the way for a new renovation practice by bringing both sustainability and autonomy to the Atrium Houses. Vandkunsten’s winning proposal aimed for ‘preservation through transformation’. The approach revolves primarily around modifying the landscaping and urban spaces to allow for new kinds of activities. The project deliverable contains a large assembly of options and leaves it up to the housing association and the tenants to pick and choose and coordinate solutions. The renovation of the more than 1,000 homes will be ongoing until 2022.

Tenants have a say all the way

‘I don’t think there’s any other place in the world where tenants have the same degree of influence as they do in this development. Naturally, this speaks directly to our hearts and aligns perfectly with our mantra of democratic architecture.’

– Klaus Richter Gydesen, Architect

More spacious atrium yard

After the renovation the court yard houses will have more air and direct access to the commons

Everything is put to the vote

Historically, the low rent in non-profit housing has come at the cost of top-down administration and a high degree of uniformity. That is no longer the case today. The Atrium Houses allow for personalized solutions in the individual homes, and general proposals from the building committee are subject to collective decision-making.

Before - Principles and materials come to the test

With 1000+ houses to be renovated, series of solutions are validated by 1:1 mockups in test houses. Winning the competition of the renovation of the Atritum Houses, we saw a possibility to mark a turning point in large non-profit renovation and for Danish building practice in general: here was the chance to build and rebuild with a noticeable reduced load of waste.

After - Test house

1001 Atrium Houses

The plan show the 1001 Atrium Houses to be renovated as one of the largest cases of renovation in the country and certainly our largest project to date.

Designed for disassembly

New facades are designed using sustainable design principles for disassembly. This mock-up detail holds a facade panel without perforation allowing for direct reuse or simple disassembly for cleaning or exchange.

New lease of life for old materials

From the outset, the ambition has been to transform the Atrium Houses in a way that sets new standards for sustainable renovation. Reusing materials that have been discarded and replaced is a key part of this strategy; for example, discarded fence slats have been used to build raised beds.

Add-ons ordered online

The tenants’ catalogue of options is an online webshop. After visiting the test houses, tenants can sit at home and shop and select the options for their individual home. Fittings, the color of the front door, and the entire interior layout are to be selected. Some options are free and others will add to the monthly rent.

The ‘x box’

One of the popular options is the so-called x box, an annex made of recycled construction wood that can be placed facing either the access side or the atrium side. X boxes are available in several variants and may, for example, be turned into a garden shed, a porch or a pergola, based on drawings by Vandkunsten. The residents can either build the boxes themselves or commission the work from a builder.

1:1 mockups

Five houses have been completely renovated to test technical solutions as well as design options and interior layouts. A sixth mockup house has been renovated to test the results of the first round.

Project facts


Project name: Renovation of the Atrium Houses (Gårdhusene)

Category:Housing, Renovation

Client: Boligselskabet BO-VEST, Albertslund Boligselskab SYD

Location: Albertslund South (Albertslund Syd)

Gross area: 110,000

Date: 2014 - 2022

Status: Phase 1, near completion

Number of units: 1001

Cost of construction: DKK 1,500,000


Program: Renovation of not-profit housing

Activity: Architecture

Job type: 1st Prize in competition for masterplan for urban transformation

Contact: Søren Nielsen,

Project group: Tanja Nors Tardrup, Klaus Richter Gydesen, Rasmus Olsen, Thomas Nybo Rasmussen, Julie Gjettermann Bergelin, Rasmus Voss Nyborg, Tobias Jørgensen


Architect: Vandkunsten

Engineer: Wissenberg A/S

Consultant: Sociologist Lise Gamst, Urbano, Transolar, Imgaine Envelope, Daniel Wedel ofSoul Food, Simon Austin, andMark Vacher.