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Vilhelm Lauritzen - the Architect

"My mind is free, it does what it likes; and it is free because only I know what it is doing. I often envy my mind" - Vilhelm Lauritzen, Architect.

Vilhelm Lauritzen 1894 - 1984 is the architect behind the Royal Danish Embassy in Washington, DC.

Lauritzen has contributed to modernism in Danish architecture with a number of outstanding buildings, often with representative institutions of importance but also villas and apartment buildings.

In 1921 he graduated as an architect from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture in Copenhagen. And in 1922 he established studio Vilhelm Lauritzen, which is still functioning today.

Founder of Bauhaus
The TAC and German-American architect Waler Gropius was Lauritzen’s U.S. collaborator on the Danish Embassy in Washington.

Gropius was founder of Bauhaus School in Germany. He had great influence on the development of modernism and is considered one of the most prominent European architects in the 20th century.

Vilhelm Lauritzen met with Walter Gropius in 1953. Lauritzen, however, was quite familiar with Gropius’ building before they met. Like so many other contemporary Danish architects, in 1927 he was on tour in Central Europe where there were many new, ground-breaking buildings to see. The modern and functional architec-ture made a great impression on Lauritzen.

Lauritzen believed that architecture was an applied art. He believed that the architect must not lose himself in either architectural function or aesthe-tics. Thoughts that dominated Lauritzen work as an architect and therefore also reflected in the design of the embassy in Washington.

Among Lauritzen’s mayor works are the terminal buildings at Copenhagen Airport (1937.39 and 1955-60) and the former National Broadcasting Building in Copenhagen (1936-41)

Building in Washington
The climate conditions in Washington are very different from conditions in Denmark.

Hence, Washington’s high humidity and high temperatures played a key role in the selection of materials for the building – particularly regarding selection of windows and technical equipment.

The architects wanted the offices to be practical with a comfortable working environment and, at the same time, create a worthy frame for the work taking place therein. It was important that the building reflected traditional Danish architectural values – even though the style and construction of the building as well as the geographic and financial conditions were American.

Danish-American Cooperation
The project as a whole illustrates the close cooperation and strong, centuries old diplomatic ties between the two countries.

In fact, diplomatic ties between the United States and Denmark date to 1791, making Denmark the country with the longest standing diplomatic history with the United States.

The Royal Danish Embassy captures this unique relationship and is in itself an important ambassador for Danish interests, ideas and values. Vilhelm Lauritzen proudly expressed American satisfaction with the final result in a letter home:

“An American colleague [Benjamin C. Thompson from-TAC] was here yesterday, and said that it was the only building in Washington worth looking at.”