Celebrating 90 Years
This year marks a significant milestone as we celebrate 90 years of looking forward and implementing positive change. As we reflect on this occasion, we take great pride in tracing our organization’s rich history of important projects, events, and milestones since our foundation in 1933.
As we reflect on our history, we are reminded of the countless individuals who have contributed to our success. Their dedication, expertise, and passion have been instrumental in shaping our organization and driving us towards excellence. We are immensely proud of our team and grateful for their invaluable contributions.
Encouraging his son to become an engineer may be something he regretted, at least in a humorous way, seeing his poem entitled 1906 (being the year his son was born).
Vast changes have taken place since our foundation in 1933, but to appreciate how far we’ve come we want to look back at the history and philosophy which we were built upon and have since developed.
90 Years ago, in 1933, Steensen Varming was looking forward to working on our very first commission – the University of Copenhagen’s Library.
Shortly after our foundation, Steensen Varming started working with Niels Bohr to further develop the Niels Bohr Institute, as his fast-developing science required constant equipment and facility updates to his institute. Working with and for Niels Bohr had a significant impact on the company and resulted in precious know-how and many subsequent scientific research facilities commissions.
In the heart of Aarhus, Denmark, stands the Aarhus City Hall, a stunning masterpiece of functionalist architecture. The buildings striking design is the result of a fierce competition to secure the contract for its construction, won by the visionary architect Arne Jacobsen.
Jacobsen’s determination to win the bid was evident in his phone call to Jørgen Varming, where he demanded that Varming secure the vote of an engineer to the jury.
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 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. 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.
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.
Steensen Varming was responsible for the design, documentation, contract administration, and supervision of all engineering services related to the St. Thomas’ Hospital redevelopment.
In 1964, Steensen Varming concluded yet another project in collaboration with friend and renowned architect Arne Jacobsen. We provided 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.
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 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.
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 Jorn Utzon, Steensen Varming pushed boundaries of engineering excellence and sustainability while staying committed to aesthetic integrity.
By utilising 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.
In 1973, the planning, design, and documentation phase of the architectural project for the New British library began. 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 25 million volumes of books and documents, housed in the largest building in England.
The Panum Institute, designed by architects Eva and Niels Koppel, Gert Edstrand and Poul Erik Thyrring, finished construction in the mid 1980s but identification of services is key to the aesthetic of this brutalist landmark and symbolic of their importance. The colour coding, envisioned by artist Tonning Rasmussen and artistically portrayed on the buildings chimneys, highlights the integration of fittings and mechanical services, introducing a human and playful contrast to the stark functionality and otherwise Brutalist architecture.
The institute serves as a hub for research and education and is a part of the University of Copenhagen. It houses the Faculty of Health Sciences and Dental School departments for which Steensen Varming also delivered building services for a later extension.
The architects James Sterling and Michael Wilford and Associates designed Clore Gallery for the Turner Collection in London with The Steensen Varming Mulcahy Partnership as engineers for the services and lighting systems. The Clore Callery was opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth on April 1st in 1987.
In 1983 President Mitterand launched his international architectural competition for the International Centre for Communication in Paris and awarded his first prize to the Danish professor and architect Johan Otto von Spreckelsen and professor and civil engineer Erik Reitzel for their matchless project.
Von Spreckelsen engaged Steensen Varming in the concept for the extensive technical services and transportation systems, which was an intriguing challenge for the services engineers with a floor to floor height of only 280 cm to work with.
La Grande Arche was opened in 1989 in commemoration of the bicentennial of the Fren Revolution.
The Mint was originally built in 1811 as a hospital, before later becoming the first branch of the Royal Mint outside Britain. The refurbishment entailed the sensitive restoration of the original buildings and their adaptation to become the headquarters of the Historic Houses Trust, as well as the construction of a new auditorium and café. The project finished in 2005 with Steensen Varming providing the mechanical, electrical and communication services, sustainable design and specialist lighting design.
Completed in 2008, the Utzon Centre is a project that is close to our hearts. Having shared a longstanding friend- and partnership with Jørn Utzon it was only fitting that Steensen Varming would design the lighting for his final project. The Utzon Cenre is located on the Aalborg waterfront, the architecture inspired by the Lim Fjord and Aalborg shipyard. The striking and playful roofs forms signal the dynamic meeting place at the School of Architecture.
The Varming Global band is established in 2009 to strengthen collaboration and offer clients greater access to international expertise. In 2012 Steensen Varming then returns to the roots in Denmark, re-opening the Copenhagen office and establishing a Hong Kong office.
In 2013, we made our debut in the U.S. market, unveiling a lighting design masterplan for the Winterthur Museum in Delaware. The success of this project paved the way for an exciting opportunity in 2015 when Steensen Varming was entrusted with illuminating various spaces at the prestigious Dumbarton Oaks Museum, located within the Harvard University in Baltimore.
This not only marked another milestone in our portfolio but also signalled a significant extension of our presence in the United States.
In 2017 Steensen Varming began development of concepts for the heating, ventilation, electricity and lighting for a research facility redevelopment at Scott Base, Antarctica. This facility is home to world-leading scientists in one of the most isolated places on Earth with temperatures down to -91°C and wind speeds up to 327 km per hour. Scott Base is the research station for New Zealand Antarctic, charged with carrying out New Zealand’s activities in Antarctica, supporting science and environmental protection. Reaching the end of its functional life, the base needed to ensure It is fit for purpose for the next 50 years. The project is estimated to be completed in 2028.
The integrity of what we do is more important than what we say and in May of 2022 our integrity was put to a test and recognized with the B Corporation Certification. This recognition serves as a testament to our team’s dedication to making positive impact on society and the environment.
We are proud to display our 90 year journey to you through this timeline, allowing you to be a part of our story.
We measure our accomplishments in quality rather than quantity, and are grateful to our brilliant team at Steensen Varming for not only upholding but surpassing the high standards we set for ourselves.
“Looking Forward” are words that represent our 90th-anniversary year, connecting us to both our past and our future - a philosophy that has been maintained throughout our history. Now, we extend those words towards the future, looking forward to new challenges, opportunities and aspirations. As we close the chapter on our 90th year, we again express gratitude to all who have been part of our journey, and we look forward to continuing our story with you.