WIT Press

The historical influence of landscape, ecology and climate on Danish low-rise residential architecture


Free (open access)


Volume 14 (2019), Issue 2



Page Range

91 - 102

Paper DOI



WIT Press


Mikkel Poulsen & Michael Lauring


Architecture has historically had to respond to landscape, ecology and climate. The paper investigates how this relationship has developed in Danish architecture, and how architecture of the future may develop during climate change. Through literature studies on the subject of Danish low-rise residential architecture and on climatic adaptation, it has been examined how late vernacular, modernistic, regional, modern and ecological/sustainable residences have responded to landscape and climate. Vernacular architectural designs were based on inter-generational knowledge of how to design according to the landscape and environment with materials locally available within communities. The connections with the landscape were intrinsic but were wholly anthropocentric by necessity. The 1920s’ introduction of modernism and the International Style reduced the importance of local landscape and climate. Danish architects of the era started to incorporate architectural elements and colors from foreign climates, at the expense of lessons from the vernacular. The regional modernism in Denmark sought to reconcile a regional architecture with the functionality of modernism. This architecture was better suited to the local climate and connected with local materiality. The 1960s saw a demographic and housing boom, the consequence of which was hastily built ‘cookie-cutter’ housing and concrete apartment blocks that still dominate the housing stock. The oil crisis of the 1970s hit Denmark hard, enforcing energy savings on architecture, which over time developed to become reliant on passive solar strategies and thermal mass. The current Danish sustainable architecture has a primary focus on minimizing greenhouse gas emissions; the control of the indoor climate diminishes the connection to the exterior environment. Danish architecture must merge the vernacular understanding of climate and landscape with the miti- gating properties of sustainable architecture. an embedding in the landscape and climate will reduce the impacts of climate change.


architectural history, bioclimatic design, climate adaptation, climate change, vernacular design