Vilhelm Lauritzen terminalen, Rune Buch

The Vilhelm Lauritzen Terminal, Copenhagen Airport

Vilhelm Lauritzen Terminal, which was the result of the 1st prize in a 1936 competition, is a coherent composition of space-creating structures and stretched surfaces. It is clearly inspired by Le Corbusier and the fascination of early Modernism paired with Ancient Greek space. When the terminal was built, there was no fully developed concept of what an airport building should be.

With the entrance and land traffic along one side of a longitudinal building, and the exit and ‘airside’ along the other, it served as a model for many modern airport buildings.

The entrance and exit to the runways are located in one-third of the terminal at one end, lending a sense of gravity to the busiest end of the concourse. The cantilevered concrete canopy over the entrance provides a positive welcome for passengers. Passengers are directed logically through check-in and out under the gate’s lean-to with a view of the runways and the waiting aircraft.

Vilhelm Lauritzen terminalen, foto af Rune Buch
Photographer: Rune Buch, Yellows
Copenhagen Airport
Vilhelm Lauritzens Alle 1, 2770 Kastrup, Denmark
4,000 m²
Realised in 1939
2001: Diploma for ‘Hovedstadens forskønnelse’
2002: MIPIM ‘Refurbished Office Buildings’
2003: Europe Nostra honorary medal for preservation of European cultural heritage

The staircase, which leads passengers up to the light balcony corridor on the 1st floor, is charmingly rotated a few degrees out into the concourse. Like the other structures, the staircase with its slight rotation seems like a piece of furniture, lightly incorporated into the concourse.

Similarly, the restaurant’s double-curved façade shape is an element that frequently occurs in Lauritzen’s architecture and that of other architects of the time. It can be regarded as a loan from Cubist painters such as Picasso and Braque, whose pictures often feature the outlines of guitars. 

An undulating, reinforced concrete roof covers the concourse. Despite its thickness of only 12cm, the undulating roof is extremely robust. Seen from the concourse, the ceiling lends lightness, as if it were a cloth about to blow away in the Amager wind.

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

The airport terminal has tactile, visual, and aural qualities, but was not an expensive building like Radiohuset. It was made from cheaper, more industrial materials. The striking brass banister on the staircase and the Greenland marble cladding at the entrances are exceptions. Several of the walls are clad with Junker’s beech parquet. The Celotex sheets on the ceiling provide a textural contrast to the bright walls, and the acoustics are subdued without being dead.

The terminal building was listed in 1998, and one night in September 1999, the entire building was moved on coupled flatbed trucks 3.8km across the apron and the runways to its current location. Vilhelm Lauritzen Architects provided architectural assistance in the context of the renovation, restoration, and recreation of the original building. Today the terminal is used to receive VIPs in the airport: for example, heads of state.

In 2001 the Terminal was awarded a diploma for ‘Hovedstadens Forskønnelse’ [Eng. Make the Capital a More Attractive Place]. In 2003 it was awarded the Europe Nostra honorary medal for the preservation of European cultural heritage.

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