Vilhelm Lauritzen Terminalen fotograferet af Rune Buch
Photographer: Rune Buch, Yellows

80 years of a modernist masterpiece almost lost

When the Vilhelm Lauritzen Terminal opened in April 1939, it was one of first civil airport terminals in the world and subsequently acknowledged as one of the earliest and prime examples of Danish modern. Today it welcomes heads of state, members of the royal family and other VIP’s.

To comprehend how revolutionary the terminal is, the answer lies in the context. Up until early the 20th century, the primary focus of architecture was the appearance of the building. In contrast, Vilhelm Lauritzen’s approach was functionality first.

When we began the terminal design in 1936, commercial aviation was still new.  There was no typology on airport design and construction. As a functionalist, Lauritzen divided the terminal into landside and airside. Entrance and land along one side of the building, and air traffic and gates along the other. To this day, it remains the predominant design of the majority of airports around the world.

“The terminal is a combination of functional and constructive complex solutions built with clear principles and details. The elegantly curved fixtures – the ceiling, the stairs and the brass railing – in perfect harmony with the consistently modulated spaces. Vilhelm Lauritzen himself called it a “festive optimism,” says Anne Møller Sørensen, partner at Vilhelm Lauritzen Architects.

A historic relocation saved the terminal from demolition

In the late 90’s, a rapid development of modern air traffic and a rise in passenger numbers threatened the terminal that had an unfortunate geographic location. However, a political majority lead by the former Mister of Energy and Environment, Svend Auken (S) and Copenhagen Airport decided to allocate €13 million in a historic attempt to physically move the building two kilometers across the runway.

A September night in 1999, the 110-meter long and 2,240 tons terminal made history as one of the biggest moves recorded. The building slowly made its way across the runway to its new destination near Maglelilleby with cars loaded with dynamite and bulldozers standing by ready to clear the runway in time for dawn. Luckily, everything went well and the terminal arrived safely.

The terminal was restored and is to this day used to greet VIP’s, members of the royal family and heads of state.

“The terminal is still current today. It is characteristic and terminal room can host many different occasions. It stands as a worthy representative for Danish modern with its Nordic look and high quality. The central room is generous and unpretentious and perfect for festive celebrations,” says Anne Møller Sørensen.

Rune Buch
Photographer: Rune Buch, Yellow
Vilhelm Lauritzen Terminalen af Rune Buch
Photographer: Rune Buch, Yellow