8 House: A Case Study in City Design
8 House is a residential and commercial development outside of Copenhagen in the suburb of Orested. It remains the largest public land development ever constructed in Denmark . 8 House was developed by Store Frederikslund Holding, Høpfner A/S, and Danish Oil Company A/S and designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group. Recipient of the 2011 World Architectural Festival Best Housing award , 8 House serves as a case study to explore emerging smart growth initiatives. Its design aims to adapt to population growth by efficiently utilizing land.
Development of Urban Sprawl
Urban sprawl is defined as “low-density residential and commercial development on previously undeveloped land.” Seventy million Americans lived in urbanized areas in 1950, covering 13,000 square miles. By 1990, the urban-suburban population had doubled and occupied over 60,000 square miles. Today, more than 2 million acres of rural land is consumed annually by developments.
The development of urban sprawl in the United States may not have occurred without the leadership of President Dwight Eisenhower. As a general in WWII, President Eisenhower observed the efficiency of troop movement the autobahn network provided German forces. Mr. Eisenhower believed implementing a highway system at home would mirror the efficiency of the autobahn in the event war entered the United States. President Eisenhower signed into law the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, authorizing the construction of a 41,000 mile interstate highway network. He stated it would “eliminate unsafe roads, inefficient routes, traffic jams and all of the other things that got in the way of speedy, safe transcontinental travel.” However, the effect this system would have on the movement of people was unforeseen. The interstate highway system provided Americans with easy and direct access to metropolitan areas from the surrounding regions. This ease of commuting enabled broad development of rural land.
Smart Growth in the United States
As an alternative to urban sprawl some propose 'smart growth' alternatives, a development method which employs the mixing of high density residential housing and commercial spaces for the preservation of rural land. Mixed use buildings, growth boundaries, high density housing alternatives, and the protection of green spaces are examples of a few methods of smart growth. Smart growth is considered an extreme option by some and has received criticism from key interest groups who champion the protection of individual liberties.
Proponents of Smart Growth
Smart growth advocates derive from many organizations. Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) is a group that opposes any encroachments near their personal property. Chemical plants, airports, and especially developments are sources of conflict for NIMBY members. NIMBY's dislike of large scale development has placed it in favor of smart growth. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also supports smart growth through their Office of Sustainable Communities department. Grants are available through the EPA and are meant to "support activities that improve the quality of development." Smart Growth Network, American Planning Association, and The Trust for Public Land have exhibited their assistance through sponsorship of smart growth  Many individuals, including Tom McCall and David Slutzky, have been prominent voices of smart growth within their respective political roles.
Tom McCall, governor of Oregon from 1967 to 1975, was a pioneer of smart growth and established Oregon as the most progressive state in managing urban sprawl. In 1969, McCall ordered a study of land use in Willamette Valley, home to Portland and Salem. Findings showed that 100,000 acres of farmland in Clackamas County had been lost to the outward sprawl of Portland. Upon receiving these results, McCall stated this development was “inserting cancerous cells of unmentionable ugliness into our rural landscape.” This information spurred legislation implementing urban growth boundaries around Oregon’s 240 cities. These growth boundaries protected farmland and forests by only allowing development within designated zones. “As a result of the rural zoning program, some 25 million acres of privately owned farmland and forestland are now shielded from sprawl throughout the state.”
Similarly to McCall, David Slutzky presented smart growth ideas for implementation in Albemarle County, Virginia. Slutzky was a member of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and currently serves as a Professor at the University of Virginia. His idea was to employ a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program. This program “would allow rural area landowners to voluntarily sell any unused potential housing lots as credits to landowners building in designated receiving areas.” Like McCall there would be a designated growth boundary in which growth could not exceed. However, Slutzky's idea would allow surrounding landowners to sell their development rights to developers so they could use them within the growth boundary. This strategy appeals to landowners because they are allowed to capitalize on their development rights without selling their land. It also appeals to developers because they are allowed to buy and use the rights within the growth boundary.
Opponents of Smart Growth
Smart growth policies have received significant opposition. Opponents range from the Tea Party to land developers. Tea Party members strongly support the pursuit of the 'American Dream'. Therefore restricting the land that an individual can develop hinders this goal. Land developers experience similar effects. Smart growth strategies contain development to restricted areas and prohibit development outside of these boundaries. On an individual level, Randal O'Toole and Wendell Cox have spoken out against these initiatives and displayed associated negative consequences of smart growth.
The urban-growth boundary legislation implemented in Oregon, under McCall, received criticism. Randal O'Toole, a resident of Portland, Oregon, strongly opposed the idea of enacting McCall's smart growth strategy. O'Toole argued that "the artificial land shortage posed by the urban-growth boundary has already turned Portland from one of the nation's most affordable housing markets to one of the ten least affordable." O'Toole is also a member of the CATO institute, an organization that promotes individual liberties and limited government. He is their prominent spokesperson on urban growth and speaks out about an individual's right to own land. O'Toole continues to advocate against smart growth through his published works: The Vanishing Automobile and Other Urban Myths: How Smart Growth Will Harm American Cities and American Nightmare: How Government Undermines The Dream of Homeownership.
Wendell Cox is another active opponent of smart growth. Cox owns a consulting firm which sponsors the websites Demographia and The Public Purpose. Demographia proclaims that "people should have the freedom to live and work where and how they like." Cox advocates that smart growth constricts economic growth and raises housing prices. He says "rationing approaches like urban-growth boundaries, which by rationing the supply of land drive up its price and reduce housing affordability." Donald Brash, governor of the Reserve National Bank of New Zealand agrees "the affordability of housing is overwhelmingly a function of just one thing, the extent to which governments place artificial restrictions on the supply of residential land." Individuals who share a philosophy of limited government often oppose smart growth strategies.
8 House: A Case Study of Smart Growth in Denmark
- Original Perimeter Block Frame.jpg
8 House started with the original perimeter block frame.
- Typical Copenhagen Facade.jpg
Typical horizontal facade structure found in Denmark
- Transformed the Horizontal Facade into Vertical Separation.jpg
Separated the commercial from the residential using vertical separation instead of horizontal
- Frame compressed in the middle to form a bowtie shape.jpg
The Frame was compressed in the middle to form a bowtie shape for easy road access
- Lowered the southwest corner of 8 House to allow for direct sunlight.jpg
Lowered the southwest corner of 8 House to allow for direct sunlight a views of surrounding rural spaces
- Bike path created to allow bikers easy access to the top of the building.jpg
Bike path created to allow bikers easy access to the top of the building
- 8 House as a nearly completed structure.jpg
8 House as a nearly completed structure
Smart growth has found wider acceptance in Western European culture which already relies heavily on bicycles and has limited space for outward growth. The design of 8 House embraced smart growth initiatives for high density mixed use spaces.
The initial design of 8 House was based on the perimeter block frame that is typically used in urban Denmark architecture. A typical Copenhagen neighborhood has a horizontal structure with rowhouses, apartments, and commercial buildings all side by side. Deviating from this model, the Bjarke Ingels Group placed the building's 10,000 square meters of commercial area on the bottom floor and stacked layers of row houses, apartments, and penthouses above. The layering of the building's commercial and residential uses allowed for social life to extend beyond the ground level. Bjarke Ingels described his method of creating a mixed use space as "architectural alchemy," stating “by mixing traditional ingredients, retail, rowhouses and apartments in untraditional ways – you create added value if not gold.” The block frame was then compressed in its middle to form a shape similar to a bowtie or figure 8. The figure 8 design was intended to create easy access at its center to a 9-meter-wide passage connecting to both Copenhagen and surrounding rural spaces. In order to optimize sunlight, the design of 8 House was lowered several floors in its southwest corner. The lowered corner of 8 House provided space for an extensive bike path. The path allows residents to access the building's topmost floor by bike.
The Bjarke Ingels Group designed 8 House with the intention of connecting rural elements with a high density design. 8 House contains features to appeal to those who desire a single family home. The design included a 1700 square meter green roof which created the allusion of the open land of Kalvebod Faelled, a park west of 8 House, extending across the building. Due to the tiered structure of 8 House's roof, many residential units contained their own segment of green roof which simulates the front yard of a single family home. 8 House's design optimized access to the neighboring Copenhagen Canal and Kalvebod Faelled.
Feasibility of Implementation in the United States
It remains uncertain whether a radical smart growth alternative such as 8 House would be accepted in the United States. Wide-spread acceptance of 8 House would likely require support from smart growth and urban sprawl proponents. Additionally, cultural differences between Denmark and the United States may serve as a barrier to the implementation of 8 House. As depicted by opponents to smart growth, the 'American Dream' is visualized as a suburban house with a white picket fence. While 8 House may simulate some of these features in its design, to many it remains a massive apartment building. Another issue facing implementation is abundant available space. According to the USDA, in 2007, only 60.5 million of the 2.3 billion acres in the United States was considered "urban."  Acceptance of 8 House would likely require a change in cultural mindset or a drastic decrease in available space. Although regulation could require spacial decreases for land development, federal regulation has done little to stem the development of urban sprawl.
- De Zeen Magazine
- Urban Land Institute
- World Buildings Directory
- National Center for Policy Analysis: Sprawl
- National Geographic: Urban Sprawl Invalid
<ref>tag; name "NG" defined multiple times with different content
- Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956: Creating the Interstate System[ http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/publicroads/96summer/p96su10.cfm]
- History of the Interstate Highway System
- Not In My Back Yard
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Smart Growth Conference[://www.newpartners.org/sponsors/promotional-partners]
- Transfer Development Rights
- Tea Party
- Randal O'Toole
- CATO Institute[://www.cato.org/]
- New York Times
- Arch Daily
- USDA: Major Land Uses