hans christian hansen, architect: tagensbo kirke / church, copenhagen 1966-1970
tagensbo church and kindergarten, landsdommervej 35, copenhagen NV.
architect: hans chr. hansen 1901-1978 (working in his own name).
I think we need a close up of the concrete frame and brick infill of the church facade.
many of my hansen photos have amounted to little else than a celebration of his highly original facades. we have come to know his signature dense web of verticals, sometimes in concrete, sometimes in wood, steel or bronze. we have seen his profound response to the question of cladding in which he used hard insulation and wood as formwork for the concrete walls and simply left them in place.
yet, in tagensbo church I believe he fell short of his own standards and of his ability for reinvention. not only did he repeat one of his technical facades for a church, but the actual construction is hidden behind insulation and we are left with a clip-on copy in prefabricated concrete. the open joints tell their own story: hansen had run into the problem all architects struggle with today, the complete separation of facade and supporting frame, and for once he had not come up with a solution.
yes, there is an artful monumentality to the verticality of the facade, and yes, the diagrammatic arrangement of the lintels is oddly satisfying and really does match the floor levels inside, and yes, so many other architects have treated the facade as a representation of the tectonics of the building (frampton mentions schinkel's use of stucco pilasters to mirror the order of columns elsewhere). but I am not a fan.
making sense of prefabrication is a great challenge, and despite having used it in every conceivable way myself, I have precious little wisdom to impart, except that you shouldn't use it to make a poor man's version of the craft solution you cannot afford. which is what hansen does here.
it is also leaves us with the problem that the belfry, which is an actual concrete frame, appears to be supported by what is only cladding. I don't believe the high abstraction and near-minimalist aesthetics, hansen was aiming at, allow for that kind of compromise. nor are the demands of the vertical heaven-to-earth axis of the church tower met when the tower effectively stops three floors before touching the ground.
I may be holding hansen to impossible standards, but to my mind the unexpected whiff of plattenbau adds to a slight hostility in how this building greets its congregation.
redemption of a kind is found, as perhaps it should be in a house concerned with the interior life of the community, inside. which is where we are going.
some other hansen texts: