C.F. Møller Architects was founded in Denmark in 1924 and has long striven to place the welfare of society at the core of its practice. This engagement is now described in a new in-depth book, called Welfare Architecture for All, published by Stockholm-based Arvinius + Orfeus and edited by Francesca Perry. I interview partners Michael Kruse and Lone Wiggers and contributed a chapter on the practice’s residential architecture.
The approach taken by C. F. Møller, whose own high-density residential projects are characterised by social cohesion, carefully thought-through shared spaces and a recognition of the power of (less programmable) quotidian interaction, represent an answer in the affirmative. As partner Lone Wiggers asserts, “The success of every housing masterplan will be judged by whether the people living there have this ‘ideal society’ co-living feeling; the sense that there’s an identity associated with the place where they live that brings people together around that place.” An emphasis on the potential for architecture to engender meaningful social relations, most especially in the context of residential development, fellow partner Michael Kruse continues, “is one of the key values that we bring to the table as architects.”
This kind of motivation, which underpins projects such as the Campus Hall, University of South Denmark in Odense or the Zenhouses in Stockholm, has echoes of some of the “solutions” that were borne out of modernist thinking in the first half of the twentieth century. This, however, is a past marred by fatal flaws and a stigmatised contemporary legacy that that C.F. Mølller’s own work has paid careful heed to transcend. In 1957, for example, the Interbau housing development opened in West Berlin, as part of the International Building Exhibition (IBA). Comprising a mix of low- and high-rise residential blocks set in parkland with amenities onsite, the development was a high-density model that sought to demonstrate how the principles and architecture of the “city of tomorrow” would be constructed.
Nearly 20 years later, one of the Interbau blocks designed by Hans Schwippert graced the cover of the first edition of J. G Ballard’s High-Rise. Chronicling the steep decline of moral decorum – and with it, any local affinity – within a vertical community, today the title of Ballard’s novel has become synonymous with the failings of post-war attempts to create high density, residential architecture. Critic Charles Jencks’ quip made not long after that “Modern architecture died in St Louis, Missouri on July 15, 1972, at 3.32pm (or thereabouts)” with the demolition of the Pruitt–Igoe housing estate in St. Louis, Missouri did little to enhance the reputation of high-density.