Henning Larsen designs first new church in Danish parish in over 500 years

Danish architect Henning Larsen has designed a 1,500-sq-m church for the residential area of Højvangen in Skanderborg, Denmark, the first to be built in the parish in more than 500 years.

Højvangen Church’s design is inspired by the surrounding landscape and traditional Danish building techniques and materials, such as brick, oak and brass, but breaks with conventional church design in several ways.

Contrary to traditional layouts, which sees the congregation seated in rows facing the pulpit and choir in front, the large, square interior has no obvious front or back. Instead, a baptismal font in the centre is the only permanent fixture and acts as the focal point for worshippers.

This interior is flexible and can be used for religious ceremonies as well as community events.

Outside, the church is surrounded by a forest, a church tower, cemetery and the existing church building.

A landscaped park and a courtyard provide space for community events, while covered seating areas provide opportunities for people to sit and contemplate or meet and talk.

Meanwhile, the façade changes in appearance according to the time of day and lighting conditions.

Despite the unconventional approach, the judging panel, consisting of experts and members of Skanderborg Parish Council, unanimously selected Henning Larsen’s proposal as the winner of the competition over entries from Friis & Moltke Architects, E + N Arkitektur and Reiulf Ramstad Arki-tekter.

Commenting on their choice, the panel said: "In a simple and convincing way, the proposal combines the programme’s vision of an open church with a focus on community and flexibility, which at the same time offers a framework for a sacred and unique spatial experience in connection with religious activities.

"The main church room is more ‘a clearing’ in the building than an actual room and can be used in multiple ways. At the same time, the architecture naturally ensures a good balance between the large community and privacy."

Højvangen Church is expected to be inaugurated on the 1st Sunday in Advent, 2024.

Images courtesy of Henning Larsen

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