Beginning in 1931, Statsradiofonien (now the Danish Broadcasting Corporation) had its first, purpose-built studios in Stærekassen, one of the Danish Royal Theatre’s three performance venues. In its time, Stærekassen was fiercely criticised and scandal-ridden on account of its tightly packed-in architecture and limited functionality as a radio studio. The building only functioned for a few years, before being used as a theatre.
In this context, Vilhelm Lauritzen was invited in 1934 to be a part of the team commissioned to design a new building for Statsradiofonien. At the time, radio studios were uncharted territory for architects and engineers. Like aviation and motoring, the radio represented new, modern technology, shortening distances between people and creating a totally new way of existing in the world.
The building brief for Radiohuset (The Radio House) was to combine sound studios with a concert hall and administration offices. Study tours to see radio buildings in England and Germany helped the team to orchestrate the composition of a well-functioning, modern radio building. In Denmark, designing a multifunctional building complex without the basis of a formal paradigm of symmetry and axiality was a very new kind of architectural project.
Height-wise, Radiohuset on Rosenørns Allé nestles into the city like a unified block structure, but it has some modernist features that were virtually untried at the time. The administration wing is made up of composite, offset structures, not unlike Arne Jacobsen’s city/town halls in Aarhus and Søllerød. Walter Gropius’s competition project for a theatre in Kharkov in the then Soviet Union was an obvious source of inspiration.
The materials of Radiohuset are very exclusive, ranging from Greenland marble on the façades to a dark mahogany interior. The ceiling in the lobby is divided into sections of cowhide, stretched directly onto mineral wool. Lamps and furniture were designed specifically for the building. The young Finn Juhl was working for Vilhelm Lauritzen at that time. Like Arne Jacobsen’s finest buildings of the era, the building is a gesamtkunstwerk.
At the time, when the designs were published, the project was given a really rough ride. But now the building is regarded as one of the most important gems in Danish architectural history. Radiohuset was inaugurated in 1945 and listed in 1994. Since then, all major conversions, renovations, and maintenance tasks have been subject to approval by the Danish Agency for Culture and Palaces.
Today the buildings house the Royal Danish Academy of Music. In this context Vilhelm Lauritzen Architects was put in charge of the modernisations and conversions, adapting the building for the needs of classical music practice, but with great respect for the building’s architecture.