BIG's prefab modular residence in Copenhagen is a template for affordable living

‘Dortheavej’ affordable housing designed by BIG in Copenhagen for Lejerbo.
‘Dortheavej’ affordable housing designed by BIG in Copenhagen for Lejerbo.
(Image credit: Rasmus Hjortshoj)

Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has designed an apartment block in Copehagen for Lejerbo, a nonprofit social housing association that rents accommodation to lower-income residents. The prefab, modular design, covered with timber planking opens up small balconies and floor-to-ceiling windows for all, creating a new model for affordable housing that promotes wellbeing.

Named ‘Dortheavej’ after its address in the north western area of Copenhagen – an area of car repair shops, storage units and 1930-50s industrial buildings – the five storey residence features 66 apartments ranging from 60 to 115 sq m in size.

BIG interior in Copenhagen housing project

(Image credit: Rasmus Hjortshoj)

The interior of an apartment at Dortheavej.

Founded by Danish urban space designer Jan Gehl, Lejerbo’s mission is to bring ‘homes for all’. BIG’s relationship with Lejerbo began in 2013, when the housing association, that rents out approximately 38,000 homes across Denmark, challenged the team to create a block of flats that could uplift its neighbourhood through public space and provide healthy homes for all through good design – and to a strict budget.

BIG’s design solution is built of a singular prefab structure, based on the idea of a curved, porous wall of apartment modules. Stacked to meet the height of the surrounding architecture, the modules are clad with timber visually accentuating the formation.

Modular timber facade by BIG in Copenhagen

(Image credit: Rasmus Hjortshoj)

The exterior facade of the modular housing showing the recessed balconies.

The curve of the block makes room for landscaped public space that joins to the urban realm to the south, while to the north, a green courtyard is open for residents and the public alike in an area where it is needed.

With 3.5m high ceilings, vast floor-to-ceiling windows to wake up to and outdoor terraces in each home, the residence provides much of what a city dweller needs in terms of wellbeing – space, light and fresh air.

exterior of Dortheavej in Copenhagen

(Image credit: press)

Facade of Dortheavej designed by BIG

(Image credit: press)

Interior of Dortheavej designed by BIG

(Image credit: press)

Interior details of Dortheavej designed by BIG

(Image credit: press)

Public space in Copenhagen with the Dortheavej residence

(Image credit: press)

Concrete stairs at Dortheavej residence

(Image credit: press)

Facade of Dortheavej residence

(Image credit: press)


For more information, visit the BIG website

Harriet Thorpe is a writer, journalist and editor covering architecture, design and culture, with particular interest in sustainability, 20th-century architecture and community. After studying History of Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and Journalism at City University in London, she developed her interest in architecture working at Wallpaper* magazine and today contributes to Wallpaper*, The World of Interiors and Icon magazine, amongst other titles. She is author of The Sustainable City (2022, Hoxton Mini Press), a book about sustainable architecture in London, and the Modern Cambridge Map (2023, Blue Crow Media), a map of 20th-century architecture in Cambridge, the city where she grew up.