'Like the Eye of Sauron': western Europe’s tallest building planned for tiny Danish town

Fast-fashion giant Bestseller set to build skyscraper headquarters in Brande, a 7,000-person rural town

The Bestseller Tower will be visible from 60km away.
 The Bestseller Tower will be visible from 60km away. Photograph: Courtesy: Bestseller

Until a local company announced plans to send a 320-metre skyscraper soaring over the surrounding countryside, most people in Denmark had only the haziest idea where Brande, a town of 7,000 people in rural Jutland, even was.

The Bestseller Tower, designed by star architectural studio Dorte Mandrup, will not only be the tallest building in Denmark, but the tallest in western Europe, besting the Shard in London by a crucial 10.4 metres.

“It will be a landmark that places Brande on the map,” said Anders Krogh Vogdrup, head of constructions for Bestseller, after the local council voted the project through last month.

Founded in the town back in 1975, fast-fashion giant Bestseller has reached far beyond its local origins. Its owner, Anders Holch Povlsen, is Denmark’s richest man and, like it or not, its brands Vero Modo and Jack and Jones are everywhere.

Bestseller say the intention behind the tower is to “give something back to the town”.
 Bestseller say the intention behind the tower is to “give something back to the town”. Photograph: Courtesy: Bestseller

“For more than 30 years, we have been very happy to have our home in Brande, and we feel we are a natural part of the local community,” Krogh Vogdrup said when the tower was first announced. The idea, he explained, is “to give something back to the town”.

It won’t be the first rural skyscraper. At the height of Japan’s property bubble back in 1991, a 41-story residential tower, Sky Tower 41, was erected among fields.

But in Jutland, the surrounding landscape is so flat that the tower will be visible from 60km away. Visitors to Jelling, the royal seat of Harald Bluetooth, the Viking king who united Denmark, will see its slender form jutting up from the horizon, as will visitors to Legoland 30km away.

“It’s hard to find anybody here who is opposed to the tower. Everybody thinks it’s a fantastic idea, and me too,” says Morten Dickmann, a reporter for the local newspaper. “The Danish news media tried hard to find someone opposed, but they couldn’t find anyone.”

In fact, opposition has come from people in Copenhagen, where Rokokoposten, Denmark’s answer to The Onion, wrote a spoof likening it to the sinister Tower of Sauron from Lord of the Rings. “I have offered to finance a major interactive art installation in the form of a blazing eye at the very top of the building,” it quoted the necromancer as saying.

Despite the dominance it will have over the landscape, there has been no local opposition.
 Despite the dominance it will have over the landscape, there has been no local opposition. Photograph: Courtesy: Bestseller

Trine Kammer, an architect who lives in Aarhus, but whose boyfriend grew up near Brande, complains that the local paper refuses to publish her objections.

“People in Brande are so afraid to criticise Bestseller. It’s like a religion or something,” she says.

She believes the building will destroy the feeling of “a huge, undisturbed landscape”.

“Such a big building will make the world claustrophobically small. Why do I have to be reminded of Bestseller when I’m walking by myself in a quiet wood?”

But locally, even Anders Udengaard, a Socialist Left party politician and longstanding critic of Bestseller, is grudgingly in favour.

“There really is no opposition,” he says.

“But for most people looking at a project like this being built in a community as small as this is, it does seem rather insane, doesn’t it?”

The Guardian