Episode 12- Keeping up with Cobe
You guys are in for a treat this week, because we have been out visiting one of the top tier architecture firms here in Copenhagen, who’s work is among the most exciting in Scandinavia, have won a TON of awards, and have only been around for 10 years!
That’s right, this weeks episode is on Cobe! And if you haven’t heard of them, you obviously haven’t been on Archdaily or Dezeen lately.
Cobe are one of the big-gun architecture firms in Denmark, and have a bucket load of awards, including the highly prestigious golden lion award for their involvement in the Danish Pavilion in the 2016 Venice Biennale, and more recently, they were awarded the Best Transformation Project in 2018 by the City of Copenhagen for their project ‘The Silo’- one of our favourite buildings in Copenhagen. Initially Cobe had offices in Copenhagen and Berlin, which is in fact where their name came from: Co+Be = Cobe, but the two offices have since split, and although they both use the name Cobe, they are completely independent offices.
Cobe’s Founder and Creative Director Dan Stubbergaard is, like so many of the top architects here in Denmark, remarkably young, highly ambitious, and is an audible voice within the architecture community in Denmark and overseas. But amazingly he still manages to make time to have direct involvement in many of the office’s projects.
We were lucky enough to meet the managing director, Nina Mathiesen, and to be given a guided tour around their offices on Papier Øen (The Paper Island) by fellow countryman Thomas Hobbs- one of the very talented architects and project managers in the office. Sadly, this blog post is a little posthumous, as they have since moved to a new office space in Nordhavn, due to the fact that Papier Øen is being demolished.
Perhaps we will have to do a follow-up on their new office space!
The demolition is happening to make way for a new multi-purpose development (which, appropriately Cobe have designed), and which will feature a new Aquatic Centre by Kengo Kuma Associates.
The Island was previously home to a paper mill (hence the name), which was then re-purposed to house an indoor food market (a hipster paradise), which quickly became the 4th biggest public attraction in Copenhagen, along with exhibition and office spaces. Cobe’s new design for the island will be a mixed-use development, including all of the functions noted above plus residential, hotel and public space.
The office has around 120 employees including architects, konstruktørs (refer to our post ‘Denmarkitecture’ if you’re not sure of what that is), project managers and various other administrative roles. Of the 120 staff, they employ around 20 interns at any given time, which is fairly low considering the amount of competitions the office enters. The office has mostly Scandinavian architects, although Thomas tells us there are around 20 foreigners currently working there too, and English is commonly spoken in the office.
We also asked about the ratio between architects and konstruktørs, and were surprised to discover that there are only 11 ‘educated’ konstruktørs in the office. However Cobe also hires a lot or architects who have detail design and project realisation experience, which makes up somewhat for the low number of construction architects.
We have been finding generally that architecture firms here are very often weighted towards the design aspect of the procurement process, and less towards the construction side. Given that in any project, the most time consuming and people-heavy aspect of the job is in documentation we find it interesting that offices are structured in this way, although perhaps that is one of the contributing factors to the high quality of design that is produced in Denmark.
And since buildings aren’t falling over left, right and centre, either the architects know what they are doing, or the konstruktørs can manage!
One of the other interesting things that Thomas told us about Cobe, is that the office is very democratic. There is an employee group who help to negotiate and set the pay scale within the office, which eliminates the existence of massive pay disparities, and hence disgruntled employees. On their website, they prefer to refer to the office as a ‘community of architects’, rather than a company or office, which further reflects the office’s ethos; both design wise, and in creating and fostering a level working environment where everyone has equal right to put forward ideas.
And whatever it is they are doing, it certainly works for them!
So before we sign off for this episode, make sure you go and check out their website here: http://www.cobe.dk/