Arcgency, an architectural studio based in Copenhagen, Denmark converted an old factory in the small town of Ryslinge into a series of affordable housing units, demonstrating an excellent example of adaptive reuse of historic buildings that are at risk of falling into disrepair.

Working in collaboration with Ekolab and Aarhus School of Architecture on the pilot Fabers Factories project, Arcgency renovated the former factory to create modern apartments while preserving the original architecture. The project was part of an initiative to develop modern rental properties using modular construction techniques without losing the essence of the rich building heritage of rural Denmark.

Based on the concept of ‘a house in a house’, Arcgency chose to adapt the apartments to the factory’s layout, which helped protect the heritage architecture. The architects also focused on standardised design and sustainable timber to deliver the project. Most of the factory’s structure has been retained without making any changes. An independent timber construction, called the ‘core’ was erected within the raw interior spaces of the factory building, called the ‘shell’. Each housing unit consists of a core and a shell.

Made from natural materials, the core is compact and energy-efficient, with abundant natural light and a comfortable indoor climate. Each unit (core) comprises of an open kitchen-dining area, bedrooms and a bathroom, and is completely free from the building’s original walls. The shell is an unheated and uninsulated flexible space, which can be used for various activities depending on the season.

The core is separated from the shell with a glass panelled wall, which can be completely opened up to create a fluid boundary. When closed, especially during the cold months, the glazed wall ensures uninterrupted visual contact. The modern construction of the core is juxtaposed against the original materiality of the shell as well as the vaulted brick ceiling, communicating the building’s heritage while simultaneously creating a setting for something new.

Featuring modular construction, the cores are built from standard materials and standard measures, complete with right angles, which eliminate the need to align with the existing contours of the building. This allows the cores to be prefabricated, minimising wastage of materials, labour and time.

Timber was used throughout to build the new cores including load-bearing structures, insulation, ceilings, walls and floors. In addition to being a more sustainable material, timber structures can be erected with screws, allowing disassembly, recycling and reuse in future. Timber also contributes to a healthier indoor environment.

Client: Faaborg-Midtfyn Kommune

Building owner: Martin Skibsted

Photography: Rasmus Hjortshøj – COAST Studio and Arcgency