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arne jacobsen, aarhus town hall 1937-1942

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aarhus town hall, aarhus, denmark, 1937-1942.

architects: arne jacobsen, 1902-1971, with erik møller, 1909-2002.


portrait of a staircase...


the influence from asplund on jacobsen was never more obvious than in aarhus town hall, the first of his many town halls and a competition win from 1937.


the building is one long tribute to asplund's law courts in gothenburg completed the same year and like the law courts, the town hall is a riot of modernist details, a collage of highly individual elements brought together under a great skylight.


the staircase connects main hall and basement. because of a change of level, the basement becomes a regular office floor further down and jacobsen needed a dignified connection. by placing its negative shape as a kind of geometric ornament in the floor, the staircase becomes the view from the surrounding balconies of the atrium, in effect making the floor an interior facade.


the exceptional floor in the main hall shown here is bog oak - oak trees several thousand years old, dug out of swamps and dryed very, very slowly. the wood is nearly fossilized and extremely strong and heavy. since it is difficult to obtain and work with, bog oak is usually only used for ornamental work. it was used here because of wartime shortages in place of a hardwood floor.


together with the extensive brass detailing, the beech and birch wall cladding, the bog oak floor makes for an interior of warm colours, kept in check by the white concrete skeleton.


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Taken on August 23, 2008