The Art of Defence – Arne Jacobsen


This is Arne Jacobsen’s Danmarks Nationalbank in Copenhagen. The building is a fortress within the city, an homage to solidity, exclusivity and attention to detail.

The architecture does not fail in its communicative powers. It maintains the pose of prowess, power, and dominance with walls that would withstand a tide of marauding miscreants. Like a lordly castle, it grants occasional admission to the local peasants, except not to trade hens eggs or jerkins, rather exhibit coins and the likes.

The single inconspicuous door is the only puncture in the marble plinth and its further defenses include battlements camouflaged as street furniture and landscaping. One suspects a secret garden beyond the Western wall, an Eden for the guardians of the national wealth.

The raised hulking mass is not even the final precaution of absolute secrecy, it even has learned from modernity to conceal the secrets within – boy-racer tinted windows to be precise. Banks are seldom inviting places, probably for sensible reasons. You have to give Mr. Jacobsen credit to following his concept through whilst meeting the brief emphatically.

The attention to detail is something to behold. The material choice of Porsgrunn marble is in harmony with the dominant colours found in the Gammelholm quarter. The reflective glazing mirrors the cityscape back on itself, varying in shade and contrast depending on the weather or time of day. 

Alongside how it is designed it is carried through in execution, and you are left with a formidable result. Jacobsen was notorious for being an ever-present hawk on site – overseeing proceedings unafraid to comment and correct. A bold and heroic architect, a man who earned the title Master Builder. Perhaps his uncompromising nature found its way into his architecture in the purest sense this time.



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