Built in 1932 as a modern(istic) large-scale butchery in Copenhagen’s meatpacking district, since 1991 it has hosted a range of commercial businesses, today becoming a food production facility 2.0. Located within the city, ÅBEN restores the industrial legacy of the building and turns it inside out by inviting the public into the brewing processes, consequently blurring the contemporary distinction between public and production. Originally, the space functioned as chill hall, where 980 carcasses hung from a robust meat hanging rail system for 12 hours until the caloricity had left their bodies. The rails are still present, but the carcasses are replaced with steel vessels connected by kilometers of exposed piping.
Semitransparent curtains, reminiscent of those characteristic to slaughterhouses, a low-hanging galvanized steel catwalk for servicing the vessels, as well as conical fermentation tanks, partially separate the public spaces. Positioned within the existing grid of butcher rails, the tanks are standing solitarily on the floor beneath the archetypal factory-like saw-tooth roof, which puts the extended ceiling height on full display, defining the consistent rhythm of the spaces. The industrial legacy materializes as the brewing apparatus is accompanied by nothing but unfussy furniture and the stripped-down space, responding as a blank canvas that highlights the landscape of technical installations.
The qualities of the original hall are emphasized by the positioning of the brewing apparatus, together defining the spatial layout and ambience. At the entrance, there are no skylights and a rather low ceiling. This inherent intimacy is emphasized by the 14 serving tanks hung horizontally beneath the ceiling, further compressing the experience of the space, relating it more closely to the scale of the body. The final publicly accessible space contains nothing more than the largest fermentation tanks, as well as an open kitchen island placed beneath the meat hanging rails.
The transformation highlights two interrelated flows. While the beer being produced becomes increasingly sophisticated from back to front of the building, as a rational line of production, the spaces become exponentially pure and comprehensible as industrial facilities as the guest moves towards the origin of the raw product. There is a pragmatic logic to this fact, as the project is first and foremost planned according to production principles. Simultaneously, it aims to challenge the contemporary idea of a factory which purely focuses on maximizing productivity. By recognizing every technical installation – which almost make up the entire project – as a spatial installation, the project seeks to explore the architectural potentials of both the original food processing facility in tandem with modern means of production.
The Meatpacking District is designated as one of 25 Danish industrial monuments and enjoys special protection making both the interior and exterior listed. This transformation has left the building even closer to its original state than it was previously. Not to romanticize industrial aesthetics, but rather as an unfolding of rational and robust principles striving to streamline production whilst exposing its inherent architectural qualities.