The Rise of the Scandinavian Skyscraper

Andrew Butler
Group Executive, Office & Industrial
Mirvac Developments, Sydney

Scandinavian design principles and Henning Larsen’s own approach to city planning can provide answers as European cities grapple with balancing heritage and urban development. Globally speaking, skyscrapers are on the rise. But as waves of supertall buildings sprout across Europe, North America, and Asia, the modest skylines of Scandinavia stand in contrast to this gleaming verticality. Henning Larsen has traditionally focused on urban planning on a horizontal axis, with social urban master plans currently underway in Gdansk, Belfast and Brussels. But now, Scandinavian design ethos has been turned skyward—not only in Europe but globally.

Scandinavia’s history with the skyscraper is laid out, including how economic factors like Scandinavia’s relatively lower land value, suburb-focused urban movements like Copenhagen’s Finger Plan, and local cultural factors have kept the Nordic countries from investing deeply in the high-rise construction. The easing sociopolitical factors that have enabled an emergence of upcoming skyscrapers are then categorically addressed.

As these planned projects symbolize a new Scandinavian embrace of high-rise buildings, Henning Larsen’s own approach to skyscrapers is detailed, and how that might reflect Scandinavian design as a whole. In short, the future of Scandinavian skyscrapers will likely be on a smaller scale—focusing on the “slender” tower, for its maximization of value for land investment, and prioritizing expanded ground-level public facilities instead of tower height. This conclusion reflects Henning Larsen’s architectural commitment to urban public space, and how that may translate to a vertical axis.

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