The Elineberg housing development was a Danish architect Jørn Utzon’s initial and some of his first encountered works. 

The residential estate was a collective submission for a competition in 1954 for the Elineberg district, later presented in the 1955 H55 housing exhibition. The architecture firm, Arton, began construction in 1957 and finished in 1965. Utzon and his Swedish partners worked the building structure in parallel to the context of Helsinborg’s industrial and commercial city and ensured not to maximize volume, but an expansive connection between the interior and exterior of the 13-15 story towers. By discussing the building’s design philosophy, elevation, planning, and construction concepts, we will be able to approach a building style conducive to thriving in the urban environment. 

Helsinborg, and how the building came about inn the southern part of the city, a tantamount of industrial and working firms are based in proximity to the railway line and harbor. To accommodate communal traveling, a rise in working-class houses and low-commodity estates began to build in the neighbourhood of Söder. This gave rise to a strong design dichotomy between the northern, higher-borne, part of Helsingborg and the labor-oriented Söder, extravagant villas were built on Tågaborg and North. The neo-Gothic and faceted tower architecture still prevalent in the coastal city was what Utzon reclaimed as the need for architectural development: to give significance to the faceted towers that stand in parallel to the flat elevation floors. Known as functionalist architecture, he gave the example that “by building up the town plan from the smallest possible unit, namely a flat, and combining it with itself, this living group of towers gives significance to each flat”. 

Elineberg housing by Jørn Utzon: The yellow brick buildings - Sheet1
The Swedish estate, Elinebergshusen, compromises six 14 story buildings inhabited in Helsingborg, south-western Sweden as residential land use_©Original architectural sketch by author (Emma Mohammad)

Construction techniques, playfulness with roof and platform 

The local architecture is variate from Utzon’s Elineberg housing. Unlike the industrial intransigent lack of consideration for lighting, this functionalist foundation of 6 buildings faces North, hence attaining a northern shadow and maximized daylight. The low plateau and terraced floor are 2km away from the North and Baltic sea, meaning it does not disrupt the wind pattern but rather distributes it with the wind flow and air circulation, which is later understood as the main intent for the façade with balconies in concrete houses. The difference between the elevation of the balcony and terrace gives attention to the sea skyline, creating a perception of height with the minimal effort to avoid vertical construction. 

Utzon separates primary and secondary function

Now we will gain a deconstruction of this housing, demolish its design to finally be shown its impurities (deconstructivism). So you must understand the general need for buildings. The primary function of a building is to maintain structural integrity, the secondary function is to bear meaning. 

Utzon pries open an assemblage of function into the dichotomy: the need to need, and the need to mean something. The former is mandatory, the latter is human. Often, the design capacity of a building and canonical means of construction is delivered through the context, culture, topology, or concept of architecture. One rule of modernism, which Utzon follows, is that form fits function. The minimal contrast of forms and stagnant height between the elements results in a lowered architectural force of tranquil suburban life, made possible by the modern structural approach to concrete construction. 

The emphasis given to the roof element with a slight pitch (slope) gives importance to the grounding itself. The top of the roofing stems from the rudimentary foundation of the ground. Rather than entirely soliciting a commercial gain, these buildings have been a commitment to “the cultural validity of organic growth”.

Elineberg housing by Jørn Utzon: The yellow brick buildings - Sheet2
Combination of two elements of vertical + horizontal construction_©Utzon Archives / Aalborg University & Utzon Center, Løvschall, 2022

Planning 

Elineberg housing by Jørn Utzon: The yellow brick buildings - Sheet3
Elineberg Centrum and accommodation plan_©Utzon Archives / Aalborg University & Utzon Center. Løvschall, 2022
Elineberg housing by Jørn Utzon: The yellow brick buildings - Sheet4
Floor plan_©Utzon Archives / Aalborg University & Utzon Løvschall, 2022

Planning and Design Concepts 

The superstructure (part of the building above the ground) contains flat units and composites of levelled floors. The livelihoods of residents in the buildings are facilitated in the comfort of easy access to rooms, and the rooms adjacent to them. The space must be a tangible explanation of an architect’s choice. The remoteness of the terrace, the room, to the building shell all dimensions to the person’s weight and frame. Because a person is mobile, the immobile environment around them confounds a balanced composition and axis systems, which are complemented through longitudinal width and latitudinal height. This building in specific  seems to have still consisted of unnatural and traditional materials of contraction, likely being one of the few constructed by Utzon that did not amplify his modernist, ecological and biophilic design.

Platform

Platform drawing_©Utzon Archives / Aalborg University & Utzon Center, Løvschall, 2020

“The platform as an architectural element is a fascinating feature. A completely independent thing floating in the air […] – a new planet ” (Utzon, 1966)

In some of Utzon’s other buildings, such as the Sydney Opera house, the platform rigorously cuts through the structure as an emblem of the synchronous acoustics and orchestra music cutting through the serene architecture. Yet, in this young creation of the same architect, the platform upholds the buildings as though crudely and awkwardly emerging; it seems foreign.  Externally made from yellow brick, the structure itself seems to be in a substantial silo of meaning. To go further, it will bitterly age to look abandoned and likely turn into lofts for a warehouse, it won’t turn into a ruin of captured art, but a rusting splice between being used and looking used, worn. 

This is not to accredit Utzon’s other pieces more, this is to explain that this edifice can also be what nurtured an architectural revolution. Similar to deconstructionist theory, the impurity of a building and dangerous fantasy can conform to a safe reality. 

References: 

  1. Løvschall, K., 2022. ELINEBERG_L_043_008 | Elineberg, Housing, Hälsingborg | Drawings | The Utzon Archives. [online] Utzon-archives.aau.dk. Available at: https://utzon-archives.aau.dk/drawings/elineberg-housing-halsingborg/ELINEBERG_L_043_008.png.html
  2.  [Accessed 4 May 2022].
  3. Løvschall, K., 2022. ELINEBERG_L_043_001 | Elineberg, Housing, Hälsingborg | Drawings | The Utzon Archives. [online] Utzon-archives.aau.dk. Available at: https://utzon-archives.aau.dk/drawings/elineberg-housing-halsingborg/ELINEBERG_L_043_001.png.html
  4. [Accessed 4 May 2022].
  5. Løvschall, K., 2022. ELINEBERG_L_043_009 | Elineberg, Housing, Hälsingborg | Drawings | The Utzon Archives. [online] Utzon-archives.aau.dk. Available at: https://utzon-archives.aau.dk/drawings/elineberg-housing-halsingborg/ELINEBERG_L_043_009.png.html
  6.  [Accessed 4 May 2022].
  7. Utzon, J., 1966. “Platforms and Plateaus. Ideas of a Danish Architect”. [online] Transfer-arch. Available at: 
  8. https://www.transfer-arch.com/monograph/platforms-and-plateaus  [Accessed 11 February 2017].
  9. Løvschall, K., 2020. ELINEBERG_L_043_004 | Elineberg, Housing, Hälsingborg | Drawings | The Utzon Archives. [online] Utzon-archives.aau.dk. Available at: https://utzon-archives.aau.dk/drawings/elineberg-housing-halsingborg/ELINEBERG_L_043_004.png.html  [Accessed 8 July 2018].
Author

Emma Mohammad is CEO of JustNow. She researches urban biophilic design for micro-architecture technologies whilst writing for various organizations such as Motus News, Greener is Cleaner, PathCheck foundation, and The Biomimicry Institute. Through writing on regenerative design, and eco-architecture, she has continued to delegate as a sustainable procurement (SPP) ambassador.

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