Introduction

A serpentinous volume elegantly emerges from the ground in an anfractuous figure while embracing a serene pond. The Sneglehusene housing is located in the sustainable town of Nye, the second-largest district in Denmark. A checkered façade adorns this housing project’s exterior, while the interiors sport a minimal and open plan. Employing many of its own sustainable measures, the housing follows the suitability theme of the Nye suburb. Measuring approximately 100,000 sq ft, the development comprises six buildings that host 92 homes ranging in size from 540 – 1,615 sq ft between them. The project has enthralled the attention of many and, by virtue, has been awarded the highest distinction award for its innovative use of modular construction techniques accompanied by inexpensive materials.

Sneglehusene Housing by BIG Architects - Sheet1
Aerial View_©Rasmus Hjortshøj – COAST

Design and Planning

Prominent Architects have always been famed for their innovative buildings, and The Sneglehusene Housing is nothing short of spectacular. The housing comes in the form of six buildings placed in the figure of a snail’s shell when seen in an aerial view, hence the name Sneglehusene, Danish for The Snail Houses. The Sneglehusene Housing is based on an earlier project completed by the BIG and C.J. Group duo in Copenhagen.

Sneglehusene Housing by BIG Architects - Sheet2
View of the Central Pond_© Rasmus Hjortshøj – COAST

The project presented the architects with the opportunity to build upon their knowledge of modular housing principles and streamline this knowledge into something that blended seamlessly with the context of Nye. The buildings emanate from a locus, the pond at the heart of the site. Building height also ranges from a single-story construction growing all the way up to a four-story structure as the building’s form progresses. As the size of the building varies, the lower two floors have access to the lush greenery across the site. The upper two floors have visual access to a carefully crafted landscape of the site. The checkered façade was created by stacking two units with the indented modules having 3.5 meters high ceilings and the protruding modules having 2.5 meters ceilings. The housing project constitutes a variety of housing typologies such as studios, multi-bedroom apartments, and townhouses catering to a diverse clientele. The indented modules feature a balcony, and the blocks stagger in the form at the end to create an open space allowing the user to experience the lushness of the Danish backdrop. 

Sneglehusene Housing by BIG Architects - Sheet3
All floors are connected to landscape_© BIG
Sneglehusene Housing by BIG Architects - Sheet4
_Blocks staggered_© Rasmus Hjortshøj – COAST

The masterplan shows intricacy and the attention to detail paid by the architects showing itself in the form of graceful trials of landscaping and gathering spaces that percolate their way through the structure of the project footprint. This allows for areas ranging from gathering spaces for the neighborhood kids to play to cozy rooms for friendly chitchat with neighbors. The central pond functions as the heart of the project, serving as a gathering place and retreat  

Sneglehusene Housing by BIG Architects - Sheet5
House Interiors_© Rasmus Hjortshøj – COAST

Materials by Construction

As mentioned earlier, the Sneglehusene has two different modules stacked on top of the other, creating the checkered pattern synonymous with the Sneglehusene Housing. This checkered pattern is the culmination of long wooden planks placed in an alternating pattern emphasizing the design. The two modules are differentiated based on their clear interior height offering a choice between 2.5 and 3.5 meters. Although both variants feature spacious utilitarian interiors. The interiors have been curated in a very minimal fashion. To facilitate maximum natural lighting, ventilation, and flexibility of the spaces, partition walls have been negated in the unit planning. Continuing in the theme of simplicity, heaters have been included in the design allowing for them to built-in into the floors allowing for smooth and continuous walls. The flooring is primarily wooden to retain warmth during the cold Danish winters.

House living space_© Rasmus Hjortshøj – COAST

Sustainability

The pond at the heart of the project doubles up as a rainwater collection pond. The pond functions by channeling the rainwater from the nearby houses, roads, and ponds. Once collected in the pond, the rainwater is transferred to a nearby water treatment plant supervised by Aarhus Vand for recycling the water. Subsequently, it is pumped into homes for toilet flushing and washing machines. This method of rainwater harvesting allows the project to reduce its dependence on the local water grid by up to 40%. The water treatment officials also state that this method of sustainable placemaking could be utilized in other places to create user-friendly placemaking elements which are also environmentally friendly

Sneglehusene housing’s characteristic feature is its modular construction technique, allowing up to 30% faster construction times. Modular construction also has the added benefit of reducing the cost of construction due to a reduction in labor and material costs. The materiality and finishes of the project have also been kept to a minimum, although the materials used have been inexpensive. 

Conclusion

The Sneglehusene Housing project is a spectacular masterpiece borne from the creative minds of BIG Architects and C.J. Group. The project employs innovative strategies to achieve a certain degree of sustainability. Simplicity and innovation can be seen in all aspects of this project, right from the overall planning down to the minor details, such as the room heaters being incorporated into the floor design. Sneglehusene Housing Project by BIG Architects has been honored with the highest distinction award and rightly deserves recognition by all means.

References:

  1. designboom, christina petridou I. (2022) Big’s modular housing spirals around central pond in Danish sustainable suburb, designboom. Available at: https://www.designboom.com/architecture/big-modular-housing-spirals-pond-danish-sustainable-suburb-09-29-2022/ (Accessed: November 21, 2022). 
  2. Hjortshøj, R. (2022) Modular housing makes impressive savings with rainwater-collecting pond, New Atlas. Available at: https://newatlas.com/architecture/sneglehusene-bjarke-ingels-group/ (Accessed: November 21, 2022). 
  3. Nye / Sneglehusene: Big – Bjarke Ingels Group (no date) Archello. Available at: https://archello.com/project/nye-sneglehusene (Accessed: November 21, 2022). 
  4. Pintos, P. (2022) Sneglehusene housing / big, ArchDaily. ArchDaily. Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/989940/sneglehusene-housing-big (Accessed: November 21, 2022). 
  5. Tom Ravenscroft |3 October 2022 Leave a comment (2022) Big unveils spiral-shaped modular housing development in Aarhus, Dezeen. Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2022/10/03/big-housing-sneglehusene-aarhus-denmark-curved-modular/ (Accessed: November 21, 2022). 
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An extroverted and quirky author bearing the name Akshay. Who writes engaging works which empathize with you and really walks you through the story, building the story around the reader.

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