have the text read out loud site in Danish

Utzon's article

Bagsværd Church is situated on a long, narrow piece of land and has been designed accordingly. It is a long, slender building opening on to a range of small interior courtyards, and it faces the surrounding world with completely closed façades.

In addition to the nave, sacristy, offices, rooms for confirmation classes and a meeting room, the church building also includes a whole section devoted to youth activities. All these rooms are linked by means of wide corridors both intersecting the building and running along the external walls.

Lighting for the various secondary rooms comes in from the small courtyards through sidelights. The corridors receive light from above from bands of skylights extending across the entire width of the corridor. The body of the church and the sacristy are lit through highly placed sidelights extending across the entire width of the building.

Historically speaking, the building of churches has always been an expression of the most sophisticated construction technique of the time. The great spans have been achieved by means of vaulting and pillars so that the naked structures have provided the church with its character and appearance. Even the highly decorated examples from the baroque age show the structural elements clearly and so as all can understand them.

A church of our time

Here in Bagsværd Church, the most elegant building technique for large spans has been taken into service. The ceilings, which at the same time support the outer roof, are formed as reinforced concrete shells, quite thin, about 12 centimetres, for spans of 17 metres. This is possible on account of their being shaped like curved cylindrical shells. It has been possible to shape these shells freely by means of circular geometry so that the architect’s wishes concerning height, pitch and fall could be met. The demands of acoustics also influenced the shape of the rooms. The thin shells rest on gable walls or flanges which again are supported by rows of double columns acting as something akin to flying butresses.

The rows of columns extend along the external walls of the building and form side aisles within the main church area and corridors in the rest of the building. They are covered with VITRAL skylights, which in their sophisticated simplicity of detail and with their splendid dimensions provide this important architectonic element, the skylights, with the desire ethereal character.

The church is provided with white walls and white ceilings, so that the daylight, which of course is quite sparse for most of the year in Denmark, can be used to the full and so that all surfaces and facets come into their own.

It is the light that is the most important feature of this church.

The light in the halls

The corridors are totally lit by skylights - from wall to wall - 100%. Together with the white walls and the pale grey floor, this produces an intensity in the light which is always greater than outside, where it is immpossible to achieve the same reflection from the dark surroundings: soil, plants and buildings.

The light in the corridors provides almost the same feel as the light you experience on a sunny day in winter high up in the mountains, making these elongated spaces a joy to walk in.

The light in the church

The light in the church itself comes mainly from the very large, highly positioned, west-facing sidelight. It is reflected down the whitewashed, curved surfaces of the ceiling and provides a shadowless light that decreases slightly lower down. The room acquires a softness that produces an elevated, optimistic feel.

In the two high side aisles along the nave, the skylights allow the sun to fall in directly on to the outer walls, providing hints of sunbeams. The two aisles separate the curving ceiling surfaces above the nave from the outer walls so that these stretches of ceiling have the effect of insubstantial canopies.

The interior of the church also continues beyond the balcony behind the altar, where the sacristy is situated with its large skylight, and it is also linked to the body of the sacristy so that the actual church interior is not like an enclosed box surrounded by four walls, but – on three sides – it disappears from sight out into these spaces. This lack of completion provides a sense of openness and infinity. The fourth side, opposite the altar, is finished by the porch, which terminates the nave across its entire width with a light, fence-like grill of glass and wood. This wall also provides light to the body of the church, so that there are no dark walls or corners in there at all. The light is allowed completely to fill the church. The light from the west-facing, highly positioned sidelight is most concentrated as it falls on the altar and the floor space around it, the focal point of the religious ceremonies. 

The intention

So with the curved ceilings and with the skylights and sidelights in the church, I have architectonically attempted to realise the inspiration that I derived from the drifting clouds above the sea and the shore. Together, the clouds and the shore formed a wondrous space in which the light fell through the ceiling – the clouds – down on to the floor represented by the shore and the sea, and I had a strong feeling that this could be a place for a divine service.

In addition to the nave and the sacristy, there are various secondary rooms: an office for the clergy, an office for the sacristan, a room for the verger, one for the organist and choir, rooms for confirmation classes, a parish meeting room and study rooms. All these have outer walls looking out on small, intimate courtyards containing flowers and plants. Like the walls of the porch, these are grills of wood and glass, 50% glass and 50% wood, providing a consistant side light in the rooms. The large overhang shades against direct sunlight and provides a peaceful light by which to work – no one is dazzled. Contact with the plants in the courtyards is in certain places intensified by means of larger panes of glass in the grills.

The peaceful light in all these secondary rooms harmonises with their functions as places in which to work and is in contrast to the varying light in the corridors, which always reflects the slightest alteration in the outdoor light coming in through the large skylights. This variation in the lighting in the different rooms is thus the result of very conscious consideration.