The Sergeant, Sønderborg Event Hall, Danish Music Venue, Denmark, Building Renovation, Architecture Photos

The Sergeant in Sønderborg, Als

5 Jan 2023

Location: Sønderborg, Jutland, southern Denmark

Design: ZENI arkitekter a/s

The Sergeant Sønderborg Denmark

Photos: ZENI arkitekter a/s

Sergenten – The Sergeant, Denmark

The Sergeant or Sergenten in Danish, is a former army garage and drill hall has been revitalized as a modern concert- and event space, with state-of-the-art kitchen facilities.

The Sergeant Sønderborg Denmark

The old, beautiful army barracks in Sønderborg, on the island of Als in southern Denmark, were built in 1907 on a prominent position on a hill, overlooking the harbour. Since 1961, the buildings had been used for educating sergeants, but in 2013, the Danish government decided to relocate the school and sell the buildings in Sønderborg. The old, prominent main buildings were converted to house a hotel, office spaces and facilities for local associations, but the negligible drill hall, built in 1940, and extended with garage facilities in 1968, remained unused. The local foundation Bitten & Mads Clausens Fond (Bitten & Mads Clausens foundation), however, saw potential in the building, and eventually bought the building. Bitten & Mads Clausens Fond is connected to the area’s largest and most well-known business, Danfoss.

The Sergeant Sønderborg

The Sergeant Sønderborg Denmark

The main purpose of the foundation is, among other things, to strengthen the local community through both donations and own projects. The foundation had previously been involved in the establishment of a new luxury hotel, Steigenberger Alsik Hotel & Spa, on the newly developed harbour front in the city. The hotel is very successful, but in need of an additional, larger event space, and it was in this regard, the nearby, former drill hall became relevant.

The Sergeant Sønderborg

The local architect firm, ZENI architects, who had previously who had previously work with remarkable transformation projects such as The Light Bulb ( and The Kettle Hall (, was hired to design the transformation of the building to become a modern concert- and event space. The project was developed and designed in close collaboration with representatives from the foundation, as well as Jesper Koch, the hotels Michelin Star awarded chef, who helped design the new kitchen facilities.

The Sergeant Sønderborg Denmark

The external brick facades, as well as the concrete roof trusses and beams of the original building have been preserved, with all their character giving dents and bruises, but everything else has given way for a completely new interior layout. The old brick facades have been cleaned and slightly repaired were necessary, but nothing else. All new additions and surfaces are executed in distinct contrast to the preserved facades and structures, to clearly be able to distinguish old from new, and thus not “muddy the waters” of the building’s history.

The Sergeant Sønderborg Denmark

The ceiling, and selected walls, a clad with black acoustic panels, creating very calm, homogenous surfaces, which make the existing concrete roof structure stand out. The floor is light, in situ cast concrete, that reflect the daylight from the windows evenly. All window and door openings are framed with black aluminium cladding, and slightly extrude from the façade, to emphasize, that they are modern additions to the existing.

The Sergeant Sønderborg Als

“In working on Sergenten, our ambition was to preserve the historical references and to integrate the story of the buildings past into the new function. That’s why it was important, too, that all new changes and additions contrast sharply with the historical aspects, so as not to obscure the narrative. This applies to the design idiom as well as the choice of materials”, says Torben Engsig Svan Sørensen, lead architect and owner of ZENI architects.

The Sergeant Sønderborg Als

The building has a simple layout. Main entry is from the south, were wardrobe and toilet facilities are conveniently located. The interior arrival area is in open connection to the main hall, or event space, which takes up the majority of the building’s footprint, spanning in the entire width of the building. In the end furthest from the main entrance, is a large, modern kitchen with its own service entrance from the north.

The Sergeant Sønderborg Als

On top of the wardrobe and toilets, a large, open lounge area is located. A new, large bay window supplies the lounge area with extensive views towards east and west. The large technical areas, including ventilation systems, are situated on top of the kitchen area in the opposite end.

The Sergeant Sønderborg Als

As a tribute to the history of the building, and the old army barracks, the new concert- and event space has been given the name “Sergenten”, Danish for “The Sergeant”. Sergenten has already been a successful venue for multiple concerts and different events, including the International Energys Agency (IEA)’s important 7th Annual Global Conference on Energy Efficiency. As a further proof of the project’s success, it was awarded the municipality of Sønderborg’s annual Recognition of Beautiful Building Culture in oct. 2022.

The Sergeant Sønderborg

What was the brief?
ZENI architects were commissioned to transform the old army drill hall and garage, originally from 1940, to a modern concert- and event space.

There wasn’t any detailed program other than to create a state-of-the-art venue with matching kitchen facilities. A precise program of needs and wishes was developed in close collaboration between architects and client.
Both client and architect had an ambition to preserve the history of the site, as well as building more sustainable dictated, that a substantial part of the existing building should be preserved and reused.

The Sergeant Sønderborg Als

How is the project unique?
All transformation projects are distinctly unique. The existing structure inevitably lays out a series of different obstructions, that forces creative, architectural solutions.

The old drill hall in Sønderborg, while not architecturally significant, is a part of the city’s history, and by reusing and transforming the building, this history is preserved for future generations. This building can’t be found anywhere else, it is unique.

The Sergeant Sønderborg

What were the key challenges?
The main challenge was to make the existing structure meet the modern-day requirements and building codes.
Also, the restrictions of the existing building frame proved to be a challenge. Especially the large concrete trusses were a hindrance for the fresh air distribution.

The Sergeant Sønderborg

What were the solutions?
To make the transformed building live up to the legal requirements, the architects and engineers had to resort to above standard, inventive solutions as well as a close collaboration and dialogue with the local authorities.
To create space for the ventilation ducts, the ridge of the roof was raised, creating a slightly steeper pitch. This made it possible to distribute the fresh air above the characteristic, existing concrete roof structure. Thus, the concrete trusses and beams could be preserved as a character giving element in the Main Hall. The fresh air leaks through the acoustic ceiling, which eliminates the use of ventilation fixtures, and thereby creating a more calm and homogenous ceiling.

The Sergeant Sønderborg Denmark

Sergenten – The Sergeant, Denmark – Building Information

Design: ZENI arkitekter a/s –

Project size: 2200 sqm
Site size: 3400 sqm
Completion date: 2022
Building levels: 2

The Sergeant Sønderborg Als

Photography: ZENI arkitekter a/s

Sergenten – The Sergeant images / information received 050123

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