Canon for Architecture

By the Committee for Architecture, 2006

The most influential architects see their art as a craft that continues a cultural experience developed over many centuries.
In their works, they attempt to frame the vital necessities of our time – joy, sorrow and hope in a concentrated form. A house, a square, a garden that goes beyond time and the client’s specific needs, and allows the building itself to stand out for posterity.

When this is successful in architecture, the work has qualities akin to music and literature, where the register of elementary human experience is reflected – at once simple and refined, direct and remote.
The composition and narrative of the architecture is both tangible and intangible, and it is this combined characteristic that represents its quality.

Architecture is thus both an important and integrated art form, as it is inextricably connected with people’s daily lives
Committee for Architecture

Architecture touches us all. It is the only art form with which we are in direct contact, and users of, on a daily basis. All around us there are buildings and landscaping – houses, schools, offices, shops, in our homes, in towns, on highways, at workplaces, in our free time, in public spaces, throughout our lives – and in death.
Architecture is thus both an important and integrated art form, as it is inextricably connected with people’s daily lives.

What shall we use an architecture canon for? We will use a canon to educate about architecture and thereby indirectly describe the significance of architecture to everyone.
The requirement for us to select 12 – and not 100 – works forces us to speak in broad terms, yet precisely, with the help of just a few examples.

It is therefore important that the selected works together have major and clear narratives about the significance of the architecture, whilst each having independent, special qualities of their own.
This is the only way for the canon collection to be able to impart any meaning, as there is no room to tell the full story of architecture history, idea history, cultural history, architects etc.

This architecture canon is a glimpse into a diversity of buildings, cities and landscapes. Therefore, the collection points in many different directions, and does not strive to satisfy a preconceived conception of harmony in the collection viewed as a whole.
We have chosen to adhere to the canon’s principle of conciseness in the words and images accompanying the collection. The 12 selected works thus represent just a few of many potential great works; the descriptions consist of just a few of many possible alternatives; and the images similarly emphasize the whole by showing just a part of the entire work. Together, these form an invitation to investigate the architecture more closely.

The collection represents our conscious choice and recommendation of a view into Danish architecture. We hope that it can be an eye-opener. We also hope the collection offers both something familiar and something new – and gives an insight into the scope, tradition and innovation of architecture.

Selection criteria

The works in the cannon:
• is of high architectural quality
• holds together stories about the importance of architecture
• is in Denmark or abroad and is of Danish architects
• Represents both art and landscape art
• represents value sets in Danish architecture
• reflects the prior art's architectural statement
• points forward and points to future architectural positions
• represents all the scales of the architecture: s, m, L, xl, xxl

The selection criteria: how did we make our choices? The committee has held many discussions concerning selection criteria.  We have discussed the overarching concept of the works, including the schism between modern open works and classical works.

Our most important selection criteria have been architectonic quality, the work’s own synthesis, the societal significance and power of the work, including the work as a representative of a set of values in Danish architecture.

We believe that at the same time, the collection should address both contemporary, current works and cultural understanding and a specific historical architecture tradition. We have therefore chosen these 12 works based on the requirement that they must reflect prior tradition and its architectonic statements and at the same time look forward and thereby point to future architectonic positions. A mindset that holds both the past and the future.

We have chosen to draw up a list that has no predefined outer limits in terms of time periods, nor have we given any significance to whether the architects are dead or living, or whether all style periods, ideological innovations or cultural history landmarks are represented.
We have defined “Danish architecture” as: buildings in Denmark designed by Danish or foreign architects, and/or buildings overseas designed by Danish architects. 

We have discussed the use of typologies – colonial garden houses, village churches, courtyard half-timbered houses, manor houses, single-family detached houses... Danish building types with significance to many generations of Danes. Types where it is difficult to point out the best work, but where the need to include them in a canon collection feels very appropriate.

From the very start, the collection was intended to include both architecture and landscape art, and we discussed the possibility of creating a canon for each of these areas. However, we decided upon a joint collection, in which landscape architecture has been defined as “architecture without a roof”.

We placed great emphasis on allowing all of architecture’s various scale levels to be represented and we categorised our candidates using internal scale indications such as s, m, l, xl, xxl.

Denmark is manageable in terms of size and clearly demarcated by the sea. Towns and cities are evenly spread and the landscape is cultivated. Therefore, town planning, building culture and landscapes are very closely intertwined, and architecture and horticulture have a starting point in the same focus on space, light and materials.

We have attempted to find 12 architectural works that say something about architectonic quality, Danish architecture values and the deeper significance of architecture as part of our culture, a significance that more than architecture “insiders” should be aware of. Our hope is that those who see this canon will be inspired to become more aware of, and to relate to, the architecture around us.

Committee for Architecture (2005-06)


from the left:
Carsten Juel-Christiansen (1944-) Architect, professor
Malene Hauxner (1942-2012) Dr.agro., professor
Lars Juel Thiis (1955-) Architect
Kent Martinussen (1960-) CEO, architect
Lone Wiggers (1963-)(chairman) Architect


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