90 Years of Looking Forward: The British Library

In 1973, the planning, design, and documentation phase of the architectural project for the New British library began. The British Library was the largest public building constructed in the U.K. during the twentieth century and took 23 year to complete. Steensen Varming took on the responsibility of providing engineering services for the 200.000 square metre building complex. This architectural masterpiece was meticulously crafted to consolidate the various components of the British Library, providing a centralized space capable of accommodating approximately 3500 readers, 2500 staff members, and a considerable number of visitors.

The primary objective behind this project was to create an environment which was specifically designed to safeguard and preserve the invaluable collection of 150 million items, housed in the largest building in England.

As The British Library celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, we take pride in our involvement and reflect on the immense impact this establishment has had over the past 250 years. It has evolved to be one of the most renowned libraries in the world, attracting an astonishing 1.6 million visitors annually while keeping a goal of becoming the most open, creative and innovative institution of its kind in the world.

90 Years of Looking Forward: The Sydney Opera House

By the 1970s Steensen Varming had expanded beyond European borders as the Sydney Opera House brought the company to Australia, where we left a lasting impact on this iconic landmark. Collaborating closely with Danish architect Jørn Utzon, Steensen Varming pushed boundaries of engineering excellence and sustainability while staying committed to aesthetic integrity.

By utilizing Sydney harbour’s plentiful water to provide cool air, we enabled the iconic silhouette to remain unit–free – a ground-breaking initiative on a world scale and at the largest system of its kind, making the Opera House a shining example of sustainable design.

Steensen Varming has since kept a close relationship with the Sydney Opera House and over the years been involved in various refurbishments and design projects, including the Lighting Masterplan which was endorsed by Utzon before his death, and most recently the Concert Hall refurbishment.

This year we celebrate Steensen Varming’s 90th anniversary and 50 years of practice in Australia. Aligning with the 50th anniversary of the Sydney Opera House, this serves as a remarkable milestone that highlights our shared history of innovation and collaboration, cementing our dedication to the Opera House’s continued success and preservation.

Our Anniversary Year Reaches the Halfway Mark

As we enter the second half of our 90th anniversary year, we continue to share our gratitude and celebrate this significant milestone with our valued friends and collaborators.  In just three days, we shall embark on a series of intimate celebrations, taking place in the various cities of our studio locations.

The first being in Copenhagen – celebrating with Steensen Varming’s close connections and previous employees, setting the tone for the series of events that will follow. Each offering unique opportunities for knowledge sharing, networking and inspiration.

While maintaining discretion regarding the specifics of these events, they truly embody the values that have guided us throughout our 90-year journey: integrity, expertise, and a commitment to excellence, values that continue to guide us as we look forward.

We hold great appreciation for the relationships we have built over the years and we believe these private gatherings will serve as a testament to fostering meaningful connections within our industry.

We are excited to share stories, exchange insights and further strengthen our relationships during these special occasions and eagerly anticipate the camaraderie and inspiration these events will bring.

90 Years of Looking Forward: Herlev Hospital

Healthcare has always been an important focus of our work, today and in the past.

While our international expansion in the mid-60s was growing more rapidly than ever before, Steensen Varming always stayed well connected to the Danish roots.  In 1965, construction of Herlev Hospital in Copenhagen commenced, a project that came to span over a decade. Steensen Varming played a pivotal role providing planning and briefing advice during the early stages with expertise extending to design documentation, contract administration and site supervision ensuring flawless execution of mechanical, hydraulic, fire protection, communication and control systems.

Herlev Hospital is more than a testament to innovative engineering solutions and functional design. It stands tall as the largest building in Denmark to date and holds the distinction of being the largest site-specific artwork in the country, earning the nickname “Polychrome Hospital”. This vibrant concept was brought to life by the artist Poul Gernes, who meticulously coloured every surface, handle, and door frame across 150.000 square meters. In this carefully curated space, constructive colour properties and strategic placement combine to foster an atmosphere of positivity, encouraging a sense of wellbeing and aiding in patients’ recovery.

Herlev Hospital is a true symbol of innovation and artistic expression, a testament to the collaboration between Steensen Varming and the talented individuals who brought this vision to life. We take great pride in our contributions to this architectural masterpiece, knowing that our expertise has helped shape a healthcare facility that goes beyond functional design.

International Day of Light 2023

The International Day of Light is an annual, global initiative celebrating light and the role it plays in science, culture and art, education, and sustainable development. It is a reminder of the power of light and the role it plays in our lives and environment.

In our work we celebrate both light and darkness, and how lighting can transform the appearance of the natural and built environment without negatively affecting it.

One of our recent projects, the Eromanga Natural History Museum, in collaboration with Architectus, is a testament to this; the project was recognized with an IES (Qld) Lighting Design Award of Excellence and 4th place in the International Darc Awards.

Join us in celebrating the Day of Light!

90 Years of Looking Forward: St Catherine’s College

In 1964, Steensen Varming joined friend and renowned architect Arne Jacobsen in designing the St Catherine’s College in Oxford, England, providing mechanical and electrical engineering services while ensuring our designs aligned with Jacobsen’s vision for the building.

One of our most significant contributions to the project was the design of an innovative heating system that used hot water piped through concrete floors to provide radiant heating throughout the building. This approach represented a significant departure from traditional heating systems and enabled greater energy efficiency while providing more even heating throughout the college.

In addition to our work on the heating system, Steensen Varming also provided lighting design and electrical and services for the college, including the design of power distribution systems, and telecommunications infrastructure.

St Catherine’s College is a stunning example of modern architecture and has since its construction become a popular destination for architecture enthusiasts and visitors to Oxford alike.

Our work on St Catherine’s College is a testament to the power of collaboration and innovation in construction projects. Our team is proud to have played a crucial role in bringing Jacobsen’s vision to life and having contributed to the creation of a building that is both beautiful and functional.

A few years ago we were able to resume our relationship and work on the design and delivery of the new residential buildings and graduate centre with Purcell which responds to Jacobsen’s original masterplan.

90 Years of Looking Forward: St. Thomas’ Hospital

Encouraged by architects such as Sir Basil Spence, in 1957 Steensen Varming’s international expansion continued with the establishment of a London practice. This marked the beginning of a new era of growth and expansion with the first project undertaken by the London practice being the redevelopment of the old St. Thomas’ Hospital, a project on a major scale.

Located near the banks of the River Thames, St. Thomas’ Hospital was first opened in 1871 with 588 beds and the famous Florence Nightingale Nurses’ training school. However, much of the hospital was destroyed during World War II, and in 1957 the development of a new hospital on the site of the original one began.

Steensen Varming was responsible for the design, documentation, contract administration, and supervision of all engineering services related to the St. Thomas’ Hospital redevelopment. Throughout the project, Steensen Varming incorporated sustainable design features such as energy-efficient lighting and heating systems, natural ventilation, and rainwater harvesting, measures which helped reduce the hospital’s energy consumption and minimize its carbon footprint.

Today, St. Thomas’ Hospital is one of London’s most important healthcare providers and has grown to include 840 beds and is celebrated for its specialized services, world-class staff, innovation, and modern facilities.

The Hunterian Museum in London is reopening May 16th

The recent refurbishment of the Hunterian Museum in London was a significant undertaking, involving the development of new museum spaces covering approximately 500m2. The project was part of a wider refurbishment of the Royal College of Surgeons headquarters in Lincoln’s Inn and aimed to create a modern, informative, and immersive space for visitors to explore.

As part of the refurbishment, our team at Steensen Varming was tasked with providing essential mechanical and electrical engineering services, as well as house lighting, to support the design and construction of all necessary services and finishes for the museum’s basebuild. Our contribution was critical in ensuring the fitout team could add the final touches to create a welcoming and informative space for visitors.

Throughout the project, we worked closely with our clients to ensure the museum was equipped with all the necessary infrastructure to create a seamless and immersive experience for visitors. Our team takes great pride in our ability to work collaboratively with clients to deliver projects of the highest standard, and the Huntarian Museum project was no exception.

The refurbished Hunterian Museum features a world-class collection of anatomical specimens and surgical instruments, offering a unique insight into the history of medicine and surgery.

We are incredibly grateful to have been part of this significant project and we look forward to continuing to collaborate with our clients on future endeavors and delivering projects that exceed expectations.

90 Years of Looking Forward: Varming’s House

Steensen Varming was well underway with its international expansion in the 1950s, but smaller local projects were no less special to the company. One such project was Varming’s House, a heritage-listed, humble yellow brick house located just north of Copenhagen that is celebrated for its iconic architecture and innovative engineering.

Designed in the 1930s by Steensen Varming’s founder, Jørgen Varming, in collaboration with architects Niels and Eva Koppel, the house was constructed as a private residence for the Varming family.

One of the most notable features of Varming’s House is its air heating system, which was a groundbreaking innovation at the time of its construction and has been preserved to this day. Despite its age, Varming’s House remains and exemplar of innovative design and engineering. The building’s clean lines and minimalist design are characteristic of modern Danish architecture, while its unusual engineering solutions have made it a source of inspiration to architects, engineers, and design enthusiasts around the world.

It might not come as a surprise that Varming’s House has a special connection to Arne Jacobsen, one of the most renowned Danish architects of the 20th century. Jacobsen was Varming’s close friend and business partner, and it is said that Jacobsen was inspired by the design of the house when he created some of his own iconic buildings. In fact, Jacobsen himself was responsible for the first renovation of Varming’s House in the 1950s, which further solidified the building’s reputation as a masterpiece of modernist design.

Today, visitors to the house can still see many of the original features, as well as the updates made during a more recent renovation in 2014.

In this renovation, Steensen Varming was involved in the refurbishment, retaining the original control system. The renovation included upgrading the windows and adding additional insulation, resulting in a 50 percent reduction in energy usage.

Overall, Varming’s House is an important landmark in the history of modernist architecture and engineering, and its enduring appeal is a testament to the timeless elegance of its design.

90 Years of Looking Forward: First Commission in Ireland

After the end of World War II, there was a surge in construction projects across Europe, as nations sought to rebuild their infrastructure and economies. In this context, Steensen Varming secured the first engineering commission outside of Denmark, hired by Irish architect Michael Scott to work on a project that involved providing engineering services for the Irish National Bus Terminal and Headquarters for Irish National Transport Authority. The project was significant as it was Ireland’s first major building construction in the post-war period.

Steensen and Varming’s involvement in this project laid the foundation for their establishment of an office in Ireland. They joined forces with Irish engineers Sean Mulcahy and formed the Irish sister company Varming Mulcahy Reilly Associates (VMRA). This partnership specialized in building and process services and played a significant role in a number of notable projects in the commercial and public sectors over the years.

VMRA’s resources included professional engineers qualified in one or more engineering disciplines, which made it one of Ireland’s leading consultancy practices at the time. The company’s success in Ireland led to its expansion into the UK in the 1950s, where it continued to provide high-quality engineering services for numerous construction projects.

Overall, the Irish National Bus Terminal and Headquarters project was an essential milestone in Steensen Varming’s company history and marked the beginning of the international expansion. It also paved the way for the establishment of VMRA, which became a highly respected engineering consultancy firm in Ireland and beyond.