Copenhagen X Gallery

Dansekapellet

Conversion of a former chapel of rest into a spectacular dance venue bringing life into this district for children and young people.

The chapel of rest at Grundtvigskirken in the north-western district of Copenhagen was designed in 1908 as a final resting place for the deceased. Today, the place has been transformed into a spectacular dance venue bringing life into this district for children and young people. The project is designed by Domus arkitekter and backed by Copenhagen City Council, Nordeafonden (Danish foundation) and The Danish Foundation for Culture and Sport Facilities with a total of DKK 32m.

The Old Crematorium Filled with Life

The decision to convert the almost 100-year-old chapel of rest into a dance mecca for north-western Copenhagen was, undoubtedly, not an obvious refurbishment option in the city. The chapel had not been used for a number of years, but the basement was still filled with crematorium ovens and cold storage facilities for the dead.

During excavation work for the new house, Claus Smed Søndergaard, architect and partner in DOMUS arkitekter, experienced hair-raising encounters with the past.

'I believe that everyone who has been involved in the project has experienced the stages of mild shock at the initial encounters with the house to a fascination at the prospects held by the project. In the columbarium beneath the cupola room, the urns were placed at several levels hinting at the earlier function of the place. It was a desolate, cold, and humid place which managed to intimidate even the most resilient of souls.'

Everyone involved in the project has been conscious of maintaining due respect for the former use of the site while also securing opportunities for creating a visionary, lively, and energy-filled house for dance and movement.

'We have tried to reinvent the nerve which already existed in the chapel of rest. We did not want to carry a feeling of death and decay into the new place, but we have used the calm and gravity exuded by the place as a contrast to the lightness, the brightness, and the extrovert nature inherent in the dance as well as the new elements,' says Claus Smed Søndergaard from Domus arkitekter to Politiken.dk (Danish newspaper).

The solid walls and load-bearing columns of the chapel of rest have been preserved together with several of the old floors. In the basement, an azure mosaic brightens up the changing rooms where the old crematorium ovens have been replaced by shower cabins. The rooms themselves are more akin to amphitheatres than the steamy, tile-covered changing facilities which other leisure facilities in the city have to offer.

The characteristic facilities together with the leaded windows provide an almost uplifting atmosphere which is quite unique to municipal facilities in Copenhagen.

A Unique Experience

Beneath the raised roof of the striking cupola, dancers and spectators will, in future, be able to intermingle at the venue's intimate stage. In Dansekapellet's second stage area, the Large Hall, the ceiling has been raised to provide space for new windows just below the ceiling where up to 350 spectators at a time can watch the performances from the Uppercut Dance Theatre.

The theatre is backing the project, 'Dans i Nordvest,' providing opportunities for children and young people in the north-western district of Copenhagen to experience dance for themselves, since 1999. Apart from performances on the two stages, the young dancers have a further three small studios at their disposition which can be used for solo instruction or instruction in small groups.

The entrance to Dansekapellet is through the yard and the foyer connecting the labyrinthine corridors of the chapel and providing easy access for visitors to the various parts of the building. The entrance is on the ground floor level while the Large Hall is split level, the right side being lowered to a position below ground level.

The Cupola Room, on the other hand, is positioned half a storey above ground level which provides space for changing and shower facilities below. The split levels and the many and varied rooms give a labyrinthine feeling and turns the chapel into an experience in its own right.

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014