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© Mikkel Frost. Source:

In the History of Art, architecture projects are usually classified taking into account not only the style and the period in which they were built, but also their function.


The Iceberg could belong to social housing architecture, where we can include housing and other buildings of public character. This one has special characteristics that make it stand out above other buildings of this type.

The authors of The Iceberg

JDS is an architectural office responsible for different buildings in the last decade in different European countries. Those buildings include offices, flats and other residential constructions. JDS is maybe the better know office among the other authors who designed the project.

Built in concrete, The Iceberg was erected in the harbour area of Aarhus, Denmark's second largest city. This complex has 208 flats and it was built to revitalise the waterfront area, with a privileged view of the sea.

The idea of the project was to give a second life to the port's container terminal, turning this area into a lively neighbourhood where different cultural and social events would be held.

One third of The Iceberg's flats were designated as affordable rental housing, seeking to accommodate families and people from a diverse range of social backgrounds. The design of the building was always focused in providing plenty of natural light for all the flats, as well as sea views.

The Iceberg


This complex was designed in 2008 by the architects JDS, CEBRA, SeArch and Louis Paillard, with construction starting in 2009 and finishing in 2013. 


It is a 21600 square metre housing structure. It is located next to the harbour, on a space previously used for container port operations. Through a major renovation plan, the municipality of Aarhus is constructing several buildings in the area, making it a residential area and a place for social and cultural activities, as well as small shops and ateliers.


The design of this architectural complex is inspired by the shapes of icebergs that float on the sea in constant movement. From the beginning, the project was a challenge in terms of size, with the idea of providing natural light and sea views to all the flats at The Iceberg.


The challenge to be resolved had mainly to do with the surface area of The Iceberg, but also with the limitation of heights. In the end, the design was structured in four blocks, with four L-shaped wings of 7 and 8 floors. The buildings are divided into triangles with different combinations, giving the structure a dynamic appearance.

© Mikkel Frost. Source:

As it usually happens with good architecture, we are thus faced with a design that is not purely aesthetics. The "peaks" and "canyons" of the building are not only there to create a dynamic feeling, but they also help to achieve the design goal that all flats receive plenty of light, almost all day long, just as they have seaviews.


The flats range from 55 to 200 square metres in size, with a variety of interiors. Small shops have been installed on the ground floor of the buildings, revitalising the area. Within the flats, the penthouses are located on the highest peaks of the structure, and those are the flats that benefit most from direct sunlight.


Construction materials


Leaving aside the innovative design of The Iceberg, it is surprising that the construction methods and materials are more traditional than one might think. The exterior walls are made from prefabricated panels of polished concrete mixed with white terrazzo marble particles. This achieves a shimmering effect in direct sunlight. This material was chosen with the location of the complex in mind, so that it could withstand the sea breeze and saltpetre well. 



For the roofs, water-resistant steel elements were chosen. The glass panes bordering the balconies overhang discontinuously, and they have variations in the blue colour, which was chosen to evoke the colours of an iceberg. 


The windows may appear to be distributed without a clear pattern, but they are created from different variations with four rectangular and square templates with double-layer glazing.


Regarding the composition of the complex, we can see how 11 peaks protrude, apparently irregular in shape, creating a sensation of eternal movement. The materials chosen were designed to ensure high durability.


The Iceberg is a residential building that does not go unnoticed.  A design that was not  randomly chosen at all, but considering the location. A complex of contemporary architecture that will clearly endure.

Master in Collective Housing UPM/ETH

The Master of Advanced Studies in Collective Housing is a professional and international postgraduate programme that is developed on a full-time basis, dealing with advanced architectural design in the city and housing. It is designed and taught jointly by the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH).


The application period for MCH2022 is already opened, and it will remain so till 31.01.2022 or until vacancies are filled. 


For more information, click here!

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