LILA 2024 Jury Award

The Passage and The Smithy by

2024 Public Projects / Denmark / Built in 2022 /

The Passage and The Smithy is about how to think and transform small towns, how to connect small patches of common space in a useful, coherent and meaningful public space. The new connection is not just well-structured, robust, and resistant enough for public use, but it also exudes a warm and inviting aura.
The atmosphere is defined by the comfortable shade of local limestone, which is, through a range of different treatments, a complex design layer on its own. The space is flexible, unobtrusive, meticulously designed, and rich in storytelling. The interaction and articulated level of definition between landscape and architecture offer a delicate balance between design determination and the sense of a liberating, usable area for an active urban social life.

- from the award statements

Revitalizing Thisted’s Urban Fabric

Thisted, a picturesque town nestled along the Limfjord in Northern Denmark, boasts a rich heritage steeped in maritime history. However, like many historic towns, Thisted’s charm had begun to fade in some areas due to shifting urban dynamics. In response, the municipality embarked on a transformative project focused on reconnecting key urban nodes and reviving hidden gems within the city.

The catalyst for change was the “Main Towns at the Forefront” campaign initiated by Realdania in 2018, which aimed to stimulate growth and development in Denmark’s peripheral areas by leveraging the strengths of larger town centers within municipalities. Thisted was among the selected cities for this endeavor.

The core of Thisted’s proposal was to reinstate a historical pathway linking the three squares Nytorv, Håndværker Torv, and Havnetorv. With funding from Thisted Municipality and Realdania, extensive community engagement unfolded through town hall meetings, focus group interviews, hackathons, and workshops involving a diverse range of local stakeholders.

These participatory processes laid the groundwork for a comprehensive feasibility study and an architectural competition. BOGL emerged as the winner, bringing forth a vision that balanced heritage preservation with contemporary urban needs.

The Heart of the Passage: The Smithy

At the heart of this revitalization effort stands The Smithy (in Danish: Smedjen), a reincarnation of the town’s original blacksmith shop, situated in its historical location. The forge and chimney rise from reclaimed stones sourced from demolished properties within the municipality, becoming prominent features rising through the roof of The Smithy—a lively, adaptable, and resilient beacon for community gatherings.

The Smithy offers a versatile space with three large openings in its walls and a modern steel-and-glass roof, allowing for year-round use. Sliding doors shield against the elements, while a pizza oven, grill, and amenities facilitate gatherings of all sizes, from casual weekday meetups to formal events. This flexible canopy transforms the space into a vibrant hub for communal activities.

Connecting Urban Nodes: The Passage

The overarching project, The Passage, weaves together four distinct and carefully designed public spaces: The Garden, The Smithy, The Arts Playground, and The Backyard. Each space reflects Thisted’s unique character and cultural history, drawing inspiration from the city’s hidden courtyards, historic ties to maritime trade, and local materials.

The Passage reimagines urban connectivity, reintroducing a bygone passage through courtyards and alleys, offering a contrasting experience to traditional pedestrian zones. It invites residents and visitors alike into a secret world brimming with local narratives and experiences, breathing new life into Thisted’s forgotten corners. New meeting spots furthermore dot The Passage and Håndværker Torv square, with specially designed benches encouraging people to sit and admire fjord views.

Enhancing Community Life

A key objective of the project is to enrich community life. The Passage and The Smithy foster vibrant urban experiences, offering versatile spaces for relaxation, play, and cultural gatherings. These areas encourage spontaneous interactions and support a range of activities—from impromptu coffee breaks under blossoming trees to large-scale events like concerts and markets.

The project’s impact extends beyond physical spaces. It has spurred the formation of a local association centered around The Smithy, organizing communal meals, flea markets, and more. This grassroots engagement underscores the project’s success in fostering civic pride and social cohesion.

Influence of Thisted’s Limestone Heritage

Thisted’s proximity to an ancient limestone knoll influences the project’s material palette, prominently featuring limestone throughout. Limestone’s warm tone and tactile surface guide the visually impaired safely via a broad, carved line in the pavement.

Hand-chiseled, the raw surface of the limestone, coupled with ‘knoldebro’, a restored traditional paving, enriches the coherence and aesthetic of The Passage. These material choices alongside new plantings transform the passage and courtyards, creating a fresh atmosphere with pleasant microclimates.

Recognition and Impact

Supported by Realdania and nominated for the 2023 Byplanprisen, Thisted’s urban revitalization project exemplifies a holistic approach to urban renewal. It seamlessly integrates heritage preservation, placemaking, and community engagement to create vibrant, inclusive public spaces that celebrate Thisted’s past while embracing its future. This project serves as a model for sustainable urban development, earning recognition for its tangible social, environmental, and spatial impact.

Other landscape architecture offices involved in the design of landscape: None
Architecture offices involved in the design: Anders Hjortnæs (constructions)
Engineer: A&I Rådgivende Ingeniører
Industrial design (furniture): BOGL & Studio Mock-up
Artist: Beatrice Hansson (play sculpture)

Photo credit: Mikkel Eye

Location: Storegade 21-29/Håndværker Torv/Strømgade 4-6, DK-7700 Thisted

Design year: 2020

Year Completed: 2022


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