Ingen Figur er Hel - en dokumentar om ombygningen af Mændenes Hjem
af: Kenneth Balfelt og FOS

Radical Horisontality / Mændenes Hjem (FOS og Kenneth A. Balfelt)

Interior design and restructuring of café, common rooms, TV-room, canteen and reception at a shelter for the homeless in Central Copenhagen, ‘Home for the Men’.

By Kenneth A. Balfelt and FOS with designer Charlott Karlsson, architect Helle Gade Jensen and Interior designers Loop.

2002-2009

The Home of the Men is a shelter for homeless near the central station in Copenhagen. It is a place for men who are both homeless and has a mental and/or addiction problem. The main part is drug addicts.

Our purpose was to make the interior design so that a more fruitful, less insecure and less hierarchical dialogue can take place. Before they had a very unworthy interior as well as a conflict creating reception and entrance area. Most of the violent incidents happen in the reception!

The aim was to play down the “patient-doctor” relationship and more let the individuals subjectivities step out. So that the dialogue is based on equality, common goals and interests rather than “the institution that wants to change me”.

Through a 9-month period we researched for a better understanding of the institution, the staff, the users, the subject of homelessness and drug addiction. We also looked at other institutions and their architectural solutions and values. From the research we developed a set of values to lead the design process. The working method unfolds the values in a translation into physical forms and materials.

The following have been implemented:

New entrance and refurbished old entrance (now back door)
Floor cover – a combination of wood and grey-black linol
Bathroom with colored tiles and a chandelier
New sleeping, counselling and observation room
New windows with opal film with artists images
Caravan meeting room
Oak tables and (low) bar desk
Tiled wall in dining room with big common table
Sculptural room divider for TV room
Wood carved box with draft beer tap with water
Furniture, acoustic ceiling, lighting, face mirror, etc.
Half-roof over the new entrance


It was our intention to remake the interior design so that a more fruitful, less insecure and less hierarchical dialogue could take place. Before, the place was characterised by a very traditional institutional architecture that created distance between the staff and the users. The entrance reception area was a case in point with a glass “GDR border control” at the rear of the building where the staff was situated looking out and down at the people asking to be admitted into the place. In this area most of violent incidents of the institution took place.

Instead, we placed a new entrance to the front of the main street. When you entered you came into one big open L-shaped room and meet a café situation on one side and a dining area on the other side. The café had a low bar counter and the staff was among the users. So the invitation went from a control situation to a “people being together” situation.

The aim of our design was to downplay the ‘patient-doctor’ relationship in favour of a less hierarchical atmosphere where both staff and users could make visible their personalities. In this way it was our hope that the dialogue of the place is based on equality, common goals and interests rather than ‘the institution that wants to change me’. The refurbishment as well as other initiatives have resulted in that more people than ever uses the institution in its app. 100 years history.