Sct. Nicolai Cultural Centre

Location: Kolding, Denmark
Designer: Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter ApS, Denmark
Project: Conversion, renovation and extension of five former school buildings
Area: 5.500 m2
Client: Municipality of Kolding, Denmark
Structural Engineer: EKJ Rådgivende Ingeniører
Landscape: Arkitekt Kristine Jensens Tegnestue
Time of construction: 2006-2008
Awards: Kolding Municipality Award 2008, Nominated for World Architecture Festival 2009
Photographs: Adam Mørk, Helene Høyer Mikkelsen, Jakob Galtt, Simon Høgsberg.
The idea was to respond to the new town’s needs for public spaces and services, and to satisfy the conservation requirements of the listed buildings.

The area of the former, abandoned school buildings in the city of Kolding in Denmark was the project for a brainstorming competition of ideas to redesign and convert this nerve centre of the town, very close to the town centre itself.
The project competition was announced by the Municipality of Kolding and the RealDania philanthropic foundation, which is specialised in urban renewal and conversion of historic buildings. The idea was to respond to the new town’s needs for public spaces and services, and to satisfy the conservation requirements of the listed buildings (two of the five buildings involved in the project).
The five buildings were built between 1856 and 1909 around a large empty space that was the internal courtyard that joined them together, united by the same cultural and academic vocation, even though each one had its distinctive character and specific function.
The project pursued a strategy addressed to restoring value to the link between the buildings, which are very different in size and materials, by using Corten steel elements for the new inserts. Large horizontal and vertical sheets of steel join the buildings, outlining new itineraries but maintaining the informal atmosphere of the large asphalted area that is a children’s playfield and which perfectly expresses the unity of the project.
Steel also designs the frame intrados that statuesquely project from the surface of the historic façades, framing the entrance screens, which form filters between inside and out, before actually entering the buildings: the music house, the art centre, a museum and archive area, an infants’ centre, a cinema and a bar.
When the weather is fine the courtyard comes alive with the playing children’s laughs, and the colourful attire of the people crossing the square or relaxing in the outdoor bar terrace to enjoy a cup of coffee and the warmth of the sunrays.

Marina Cescon
Acciaio Arte Architettura 52