SMK Museum Garden

Updated 27.07.22 |
Signe Moeslund Mains

Photo credit: Sangberg Architects

The garden in front of the National Gallery of Denmark, SMK, in Copenhagen is an open urban landscape which invites museum visitors and passers-by inside to enjoy a breathing space and cultural events. SMK Museum Garden is designed by WERK Architects and Sangberg Architects (the former POLYFORM) in partnership with Dutch Karres En Brands. The renovation of the stairs and entrance is designed by Erik Møller Architects, a subsidiary of KPF Arkitekter.

"The garden and stairs form part of the physical realisation of the museum’s ambitions to open up the museum and make works, knowledge and the museum itself accessible as a social and inviting space.” SMK 2014

Branding & Visitors Numbers

According to SMK, the Museum Garden turns the meeting with the museum into an experience that really supports the brand and identity of the museum. Since the opening of the garden in 2014, the museum has seen increased attention, use and visitor numbers. That appears from SMK’s annual reports from the past 10 years.

At the opening event in 2014, the museum set a new visitor record as 7,802 people visited the museum in just one day. In the following year, SMK reached their highest number of visitors ever as 451,195 people walked through the doors to the museum in 2015, equal to an average of 1,200 visitors a day. This is an increase of almost 20 % compared to 2014. 

Since the opening of the Museum Garden in 2014, SMK has seen increased attention, use and visitor numbers thanks to longstanding efforts to develop the brand and spread brand awareness.”, SMK 2015 

Urban Life & Accessibility

By using the Museum Garden to open up the National Gallery of Denmark, the art of the museum floats into the urban, public space, makes it accessible and invites people inside. The art become visible to the entire city as the museum facilitates an outdoor meeting point and a public, green space in continuation of the high culture inside. If you pass by the garden on a sunny day, it is clear that the Copenhageners have embraced the urban space. 

“One day I saw some boys who had placed the yellow and green chairs, which are part of the new museum front garden, in the water in the large new basin. They were playing tag and were jumping between the chairs. It is a great way to occupy a space. And proof that the space is open and invites people to use it... The garden in front of the National Gallery of Denmark is an excellent example of a cultural institution inviting people inside. From being a space that hardly anybody dared to enter, it has now become a natural place to be.” Tina Saaby, City Architect, City of Copenhagen, Politiken 17.03.2016

Photo of SMK Museum Garden by WERK Architects and Sangberg Architects (the former POLYFORM) in collaboration with Karres En Brands. Photo credit: Sangberg Architects

About the case

‘SMK back in the park’ was the original title of the winning proposal by POLYFORM Arkitekter and Karres En Brands for the architectural competition issued by SMK and the City of Copenhagen back in 2011. Before, the space in front of the museum was a baroque-inspired park with closed off fences and strict path systems. Today, the park has been replaced by a large, coherent and public space that brings the qualities of Østre Anlæg all the way around the museum. Grass-covered slopes, winding pathways and young trees help create an open and recreational landscape that connects the city, building and park.

A central circular basin with a diameter of 32 metres is the gathering point of the garden. Museum visitors sit on the edge of the basin and discuss their art experiences, children play and passers-by sit down to enjoy their to-go coffee in the sun. On a normal day, the basin will serve as a water mirror, reflecting and bringing the sky and the towers of the city into the garden, and when emptied, the basin can also serve as a platform for art installations, concerts, performance art or as an ice skating rink in the winter. The Museum Garden invites the city inside, giving not only museum visitors an easy accessibly pathway to the world of arts. The garden gives the general public a new green urban space where they can meet up, go for a walk and enjoy art happenings and events.

Read more about SMK Museum Garden by WERK Architects