Client: Aarhus School of Architecture
Status: Competition (2016)
Location: Aarhus, Denmark
Coordinates: 56.152392, 10.191978
Climate: Continental, Temperate
Materials: Concrete, Glass
Environments: Park, Railway, Urban
Types: Education, University
Right beside the Aarhus city center, we find Godsbanearealerne: a former industrial and logistics area currently undergoing a significant process of modernization. The area is bound to become a cultural pole that will revitalize the whole city and will bring in an assorted variety of interactions, opportunities and new futures.
We believe the new Aarhus school of architecture must play a starring role in such cultural and urban transformation. We wish to imagine the new architecture school of Aarhus as a powerful catalyst of all the area potentials, as well as a building able to trace a relationship between the latent “past” and the emerging “future” of the site.
A university that is conceived as a factory and a museum: We envision a factory, a place for the production of knowledge, prototypes and design thinking. We envision a museum gallery, a place for sharing with the community, among students and with the city.
The factory or warehouse typology relates to the original attitude of the area. Factories are places for production, they are superstructures that can house any scenario and provide users with a high degree of flexibility. A factory understood as a contemporary horizontal space that can adapt to all situations and provide high quality flexible spaces while proposing a democratic structure without hierarchy. Big prototypes, cranes, machinery, installations, spaces for lectures, conference halls or big exhibition rooms are situations that can easily take place in this typology.
The museum relates to the new cultural pole that Godsbanearealerne is nowadays becoming. Museums create landmarks in the cities; they generate public spaces and invite the whole community to participate of their inner content. Why could we not envision an architecture school that people engage to as a place to enjoy and learn from? The new architecture school includes public spaces and public alleys in order to bring in the community and make them active part of the daily school life.
As in any industrial superstructure, the new design starts from a horizontal modulation that articulates all spaces. A 8.5 m x 8.5 m grid generates a square rhythm which can produce different size rooms. These will be high ceiling rooms, up to 10m, and they will all be connected one to another.
Each of these rooms is lit with zenithal natural sunlight by means of a light well system located on the roof. In order to increase the light effect and the space perception, each room is shaped as a concrete square pyramid. All this different size square pyramid spaces rest on a structural grid which generates a free floor plan. Since the orientation of every light well is different for each space, the free floor plan will also be perceived as a sequence of different light tones.
A flexible partition system delimitates the different rooms. The partition system is presented as a modular addition of frames which measure 1.8×2.3 each. Every frame can be filled with: glass, double glass, doors, opaque partitions, shelves… allowing a wide variety of options. Some of these flexible partitions will also be removable so that spaces can add to each other and work as one, or segregate if desired.
The horizontal character of the new school allows a direct connection with the surrounding public spaces and invites the community indoors. The representative main exhibition space proposes a direct continuity with the Godsbanen cultural centre square. Lundbyesgade street continuation is also considered as a public street embedded in the system.
A thin perimeter ring culminates the building and generates a façade to the city. This surrounding ring is the only area of the new school that has got three levels (5m higt each). It houses all the studios, the academic staff offices and the civic kitchen.
The strong relationship of the studios with the façade improves their quality in terms of light, and views, in addition, it creates a “changing” livable façade that exposes the actions of the students as a window screen to the neighborhood. The civic kitchen is also located in this perimeter ring volume so that it can serve both the university and the public space.
On the third level of the perimeter ring volume, as hidden gem, we find one of the most special and intense open places of the new school: The roof garden. The roof garden is an oneiric natural space that gathers all the autochthonous flora of the region at its full expression. The roof garden is a green open place full of opportunities. Experimental gardens, greenhouses, outdoor exhibitions, events, glass houses, big scale models, food huts or food terraces are some of the uses that will transform the roof into a vibrant and absorbing place for inspiration. The heads of the light wells break through this natural garden and peek among the green masses so as to capture the sunlight. These emerging elements generate a new contemporary landscape which combines both the natural and the abstract. A system of green courtyards will connect the experimental roof surface to the public passages, labs and rooms right below on the floor level.
The new Aarhus school of architecture is shaped as a horizontal flat prism. Despite its clear and radical formal resolution, the volume position and its inner public spaces are tightly related to the surrounding context in order to generate new synergies that will revitalize the area.
The new building is located on the top north east limit of the plot, right in front of Godsbanen cultural centre. Our goal is to generate a new strong centrality and a new square. The square will hold the activity of both the new university and the cultural centre as a new open “agora” for the neighbourhood.
Inside the univerisity, the central exhibition space is designed as natural extension of the Godsbanen square. They both have the same width and they work together as a one: a square for the city which also behaves as the new heart and iconic room within the new architecture school.
In addition, there is a public passage across the new building that works as a continuation of Lundbyesgade street. The prolongation of a street across the new architecture school will engage the community and pedestrians to participate of the learning environments and transform them into lively spaces for the exchange of ideas.
Another relevant urban decision is the location of several parts of the program such as the civic kitchen or the studios. The civic kitchen will be located on the corner of Godsbanen cultural center square and the green wedge so that both of these spaces are gifted with the service of outer terraces, places to eat and the activity of what will certainly become a busy meeting point within the new school.
On the south west side of the plot, the new school façade combined with the preservation of the two quaint historic buildings and the new residential developments facing Carl Blochs Gade street create a new opportunity for a much more intimate and domestic public square. This public space could also include small local shops and services