Posts tagged with "Denmark":

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Western Europe’s tallest tower could have sheep grazing at its base

A 1050-foot-tall tower reminiscent of New York’s 432 Park could be Western Europe’s next tallest (occupiable) building—and it could be dropped into a rural Danish village of 7,000 people. The decision to build Bestseller Tower in Brande, where the building would be visible from 37 miles away in every direction, may seem counterintuitive at first—but Brande is also where the international fast-fashion company Bestseller is headquartered. To boot, it’s also the hometown of Bestseller’s founder and Denmark’s richest man, Anders Holch Povlsen. Danish firm Dorte Mandrup, no stranger to landmark projects throughout Europe, is the designer behind Bestseller Tower and has chosen a strong grid facade, as opposed to a more delicate glass curtain wall that could have disappeared into the surrounding countryside. The building will contain offices for the fashion company, a hotel, and conference spaces, while a “village” of glassy, greenery-topped retail pavilions at the tower’s base are expected to display Bestseller’s numerous clothing brands. Although Bestseller Tower will top out at over 1,000 feet, rivaling the Eiffel Tower, as planned it will only be 45 stories. Assuming the building won’t be using construction tricks such as including height-boosting mechanical voids, that means each floor will reach a whopping 23-feet-tall on average. Surprisingly, the tower isn’t facing much opposition in Brande, at least on the surface. The town council voted to approve the project last month and construction will begin this year, putting the tower on track to meet a 2023 opening. “The project has not raised any concerns or resistance from any of our municipal council board members,” said mayor of Ikast-Brande, Ib Lauritsen, when speaking to Danish broadcaster DR. “It will undoubtedly be of the greatest significance for the city of Brande, but I do not doubt it will affect the whole of Central Jutland.” That approval is likely why the project is back in the news cycle, as plans were originally unveiled back in 2017.
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C. F. Møller Architects wrapped this Danish school with thousands of solar panels

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Solar panels are increasingly ubiquitous across a broad range of recent and ongoing projects. For the most part, this technology is applied along rooflines or as standalone installations supplying the energy demands of an adjacent complex. Completed in 2017, C.F. Møller’s Copenhagen International School bucks this trend with a facade composed of thousands of solar panels. The Copenhagen International School is located in the city’s fast-growing Nordhavn district, a significant harbor area undergoing a range of mixed-use development. The school, surrounded by looming cranes and shipping containers, is not out of place with its box-like massing.
  • Facade Manufacturer SolarLab
  • Architects C.F. Møller Architects
  • Facade Installer Per Aarselff A/S, Eiler Thomsen Alufacader A/S
  • Facade Consultants Niras A/S
  • Location Nordhavn, Copenhagen
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • System Concrete structural system with photovoltaic rainscreen
  • Products SolarLab custom-designed photovoltaic panels
According to the architects, the overall focus of the new masterplan for the district emphasized the use of sustainable energy embedded in a newly built network of roads, commuter stations, bike paths, and pedestrian paths. After testing the practicality of water and wind energy, solar energy was chosen as the most suitable for the school's needs. Rising from a ground flour base, the school building is divided into four educational towers ranging in height from five to seven stories. The facade of this unique arrangement is composed of over 12,000 custom-designed photovoltaic panels produced by Danish manufacturer SolarLab. The panels, which additionally function as a rain screen cladding, are all colored the same shade of blue-green. Each panel is slightly angled and treated with a nanogel to add a layer of dynamism to what would otherwise be a static facade format, which gives the effect of different colors and shading due to shifting environmental conditions. Each panel is approximately 2.5 square feet in area, and are mechanically held in place by a system of glass rails and aluminum cassettes, pitching each panel at an angle of 4° in relation to the facade. In total, the panels have a surface area of just over 65,000 square feet. For the most part, the panels are formed of 16 solar cells linked by tinned copper threads. The facade is split into eight-panel modules, each connected to independent inverters suspended under the ceiling throughout the building, converting the solar energy into an alternating current of 230 Volts. In total, the panels are estimated to produce 300 MWh per year, fulfilling 50% of the school's energy requirements. In 2017, the project was awarded Germany's Iconic Award, noting the school's innovative facade cladding, and C. F. Møller is currently designing a trio of floating classrooms adjacent to the Copenhagen International School.
   
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Henning Larsen’s undulating residential complex reaches completion in Denmark

  Copenhagen-based firm Henning Larsen Architects recently finalized The Wave apartment complex in Vejle, Denmark, that features five interconnected, undulating towers that reflect in the fjord beside it. Its unique form is inspired by the dramatic landscape of the area, known for its deep inlets and steep, rolling hills, which are uncommon in Denmark. The eye-catching Wave, which stands out from the ubiquitous office buildings and historic, red brick buildings of downtown Vejle, serves as a distinctive sculptural landmark of the city. Construction of the 150,000-square-foot, 100-unit complex began over a decade ago, but it was stalled due to the 2008 global financial crisis. After a tumultuous 11 years, the rippling building is complete and has garnered widespread attention for its architectural tribute to Vejle’s local geography and cultural heritage. Even before its completion, the towers were named Residential Building of the Year by Building in 2009 and won an ABB Leaf Award and Prestigious Civic Trust Award in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Unlike the pace of construction, the apartment units are selling at a breakneck pace. According to the building’s website, three of the “waves” are already completely sold out, and only seven units remain overall. A 2,700-square-foot duplex on the top floor is still available, with an asking price of roughly $2 million.
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Denmark plans to build nine new islands to house “European Silicon Valley”

The Danish government and Hvidovre, a city outside Copenhagen, are planning a series of nine artificial islands to house a new tech hub. The new archipelago, dubbed Holmene, will create over 33 million square feet of new land, 10.5 miles of new coastline, and, hopefully, 12,000 new jobs directly and up to 30,000 new jobs indirectly. The islands will set their buildings in over 170 acres of parkland intended for a variety of recreational uses.
Holmene will rise next to Avedøre Holme, an existing industrial area outside of Copenhagen, and is meant to be a home for up to 380 businesses, ideally tech companies that will transform the area into "a sort of European Silicon Valley,” according to the head of the Danish chamber of commerce, Brian Mikkelsen, as reported in The Guardian. The project still has to be approved by the Danish parliament, but current estimates say that construction could begin in 2022 with the first island becoming inhabitable six years later, and the entire complex completed by 2040.
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A Danish consortium is advancing the possibilities of concrete formwork

In Aarhus, Denmark’s second largest city, a consortium of architects, engineers, and manufacturers are advancing the capabilities of concrete construction formwork and advanced design. This effort culminated in a recently unveiled 19-ton prototype dubbed Experiment R.

The project, led by the Aarhus School of Architecture, Odico Formwork Robotics, Aarhus Tech, concrete manufacturer Hi-Con, and Søren Jensen Consulting Engineers, tackles the waste associated with concrete formwork through the use of a novel robotic fabrication method.

How does this new method work and why is it potentially so disruptive? According to the Aarhus School of Architecture, formwork is easily the most expensive aspect of concrete construction, making up to three-quarters of the total cost of a concrete project. Significantly reducing waste associated with the formwork process and the molds themselves boosts environmental performance and the economic feasibility of complex concrete geometries.

The project's new apparatus consists of a heated and electrically powered wire rotating at a speed of approximately 160 feet per second around a carbon fiber frame. This device is mounted atop a robotic arm, which can shape complex detailing. While a polystyrene mold was used for the formwork of Experiment R, the mechanism has the capacity to cut through harder materials such as stone and timber.

Conventional methods of formwork fabrication are significantly more laborious—a typical CNC milling machine is able to process an 11-square-foot surface in approximately three to five hours. In an action that Asbjørn Søndergaard, chief technology officer of Odico Formwork Robotics, refers to as “detailing the whole formwork in one sweep,” the new technology is able to process that same surface area in 15 seconds. Strikingly, this timescale is applicable to both straightforward and advanced design formwork.

The 19-ton Experiment B prototype, installed adjacent to Aarhus's Marselisborg Lystbådehavn in July 2018, is an extreme example of what can be achieved with this new method, displaying future possibilities of construction. According to Søndergaard, it is the hope of the consortium that the highly optimized concrete formwork is translatable and ultimately adopted for everyday projects such as minor infrastructural works and standard residential or commercial development.
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Take a deep dive into Olafur Eliasson’s first completed building

Fjordenhus in Vejle, Denmark, is the first completed building by artist Olafur Eliasson and architect Sebastian Behmann. Together with Studio Olafur Eliasson, the duo have created a thoughtfully conceived and crafted structure in the bay of a Danish fjord. In their earlier architectural collaborations—like the curtain wall design for the Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik, Iceland—their work has displayed an attention to detail, composition, materials, and craftsmanship that carries over into this unique commission.

Once they convinced their client, Kirk Kapital, to build its headquarters in the water of an underutilized shipping port, they created a cylindrical concrete structure as a reference to the area’s surrounding grain silos.

The building is composed of four intersecting concrete volumes arrayed around an open public space and faced with nearly a million custom-designed bricks. The four-story volumes morph in elevation from ellipses to circles, and out of these are carved porous openings that dramatically frame views of the fjord. Built atop a man-made island with a basement foundation, Fjordenhus looks like a medieval rampart as imagined by Louis Kahn. But up close, its exterior walls are a pattern of endlessly and beautifully textured color.

The designers created 15 different hues of unglazed brick, added a smattering of blue, green, and silver glazed bricks, and then meticulously laid them out in digital drawings to create a patterned composition for the entire building. The brick colors were selected to reflect their immediate surroundings (more blue at the top of the building and gray for the stairwells), and they are meant to embody the changing weather and light conditions of the site. The torqued elliptical forms are intended to create a series of dynamic, flowing spaces that are “constantly calibrating to allow the user to trust themselves,” according to Eliasson, as they enter and pass through the building. The artist cited Erwin Panofsky’s criticism of neoclassicism and how it prescribes the inhabitation of buildings as an example of what not to do in designing architectural space. Eliasson wanted to move away from classical hierarchical planning to a more democratic, participatory architecture that he considers a hallmark of Danish democracy.

The building is entered from the quay by a footbridge that leads into a circular public space with three of the artist’s sculptures and a mirrored ceiling piece that reflects the light of the fjord back into the occupied public space.

A circular elevator that features dramatic top and bottom lighting, along with a surrounding stair that rises on splayed armatures, take users up into workspaces fitted with furnishings, lighting, built-in cabinets, and interior stairs all designed by the firm. The placement of furniture is purposefully haphazard so that users “democratically” negotiate their own paths through the space, giving them co-authorship of the building. 

In addition, Eliasson designed table and floor lamps made of deep green glass and metal, as well as built-in lighting that is equal parts functional lighting and sculptural object. Lower floors have elegant, circular concrete pads with coffered lighting overhead. The top floor has a globular, faceted sculpture placed below a skylight that throws sunlight over the space. In addition, the rooms have a series of Eliasson-designed fixtures elegantly cobbled together from a hanging LED light fixture that casts light upward through a glass lens, creating a pattern of concentric circles on the ceiling.

This unique practice is based on an artistic sensibility devoted to materiality, craft, and an understanding of form, developed through Eliasson’s years of experimentation as a trained sculptor. As a result, it is a challenge to more traditional architecture practices. Furthermore, the designer’s insistence on the necessity of creating a democratic, user-controlled space means Fjordenhus comes as close to a contemporary Gesamtkunstwerk (or total work of art) as we have yet experienced in the 21st century.

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A playfully punctured aluminum skin enlivens this Danish school

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On the outskirts of Aarhus, Denmark, CEBRA–a multidisciplinary practice based in Denmark and Abu Dhabi–recently designed a 100,000 square-foot primary school embedded in a forested landscape and influenced by the local architectural vernacular. For the firm, the Skovbakke School is an expression of democratic architecture that engages and opens with the surrounding landscape and creates a multitude of experiences for the diverse student body.
  • Facade Manufacturer Alucoil, Moelven
  • Architects CEBRA
  • Facade Installer MT Højgaard Design & Engineering
  • Facade Consultants MT Højgaard Design & Engineering
  • Location Odder, Aarhus, Denmark
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • System Prefabricated aluminum cladding and wood paneling
  • Products Moelven ThermalWood, Icopal pitched roofing, Alcucoil Composite Aluminum Panels, Troldekt acoustical ceilings
According to CEBRA, the school ties itself to the town aesthetically through a diverse range of pitched roofs; the staggered gables break up the building's mass and extend to shield balconies from the elements with overhanging eaves. Balcony spaces, entrances, and portions of the interior are paneled with Moelven Thermowood. The school's structure is composed of pre-cast concrete walls and slabs. The exterior is largely clad with Alucoil’s prefabricated aluminum composite panels treated with grey, brown, and beige colors. The cladding is mounted on perforated aluminum profiles and fitted to the frames of windows and doors. Segments of color meet at sharp angles, mirroring the panoply of gables above. CEBRA opted for the facade's earthy tones "to reflect how the colors of the sky transform into the colors of the trees, mediating between the two primary elements surrounding the school." The Skovbakke School features physical activity areas in each classroom, fire access routes that double as tracks for exercise, and immediate access to the adjacent public park. Although the roofline possesses a number of peaks and valleys, the plan consists of “four offset fingers.” Circulation across the expansive layout is facilitated by a series of common spaces, notably a natural light-flooded central atrium. The core space is supported by a series of slender grey columns, allowing for a broad range of uses and internal configurations between. Offset stairwells and a wooden amphitheater ring the atrium, providing routes for circulation and a large area for gathering. Playfully arranged windows are scattered across the school’s facade and are paired with the function of individual classrooms and common areas. The seemingly random placement of windows, possible through the use of lightweight facade cladding, also provides lively animation to the complex’s courtyards, allowing multiple view lines between the exterior and interior spaces. Additionally, steel lattice girders allowed the design team to insert skylights across the complex's roofline, naturally illuminating interior classrooms and common areas. CEBRA views “the combination of high-and-low ceilinged, light and dim, small and large spaces,” as a vehicle for “the children to turn to different social situations–large assemblies, smaller groups or alone–depending on their needs and moods.”
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Bjarke Ingels Group designs a new home for Noma

Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has designed a new home for one of the most critically acclaimed restaurants in the world: noma. The Danish eatery moved into their new digs earlier this year, leaving their old home in the Strandgade neighborhood of Copenhagen, Denmark, to the city's Christiania area. Christiania is Copenhagen's "hippie town," a former military base that was colonized by squatters in the 1970s, became a sort of lawless city-in-a-city where drugs were available at street stalls, and is now a mix of informal settlements and super-lux restaurants. The new noma is in a refurbished warehouse that was once used by the Royal Danish Navy and has been re-styled with a Scandi-chic interior for sampling avant-garde takes on Nordic cuisine. The restaurant is split across a variety of little buildings, each assigned a specific purpose (arrival, wine selection, etc.) and all arranged around the kitchen. The arrangement is meant to turn a visit to the restaurant into a culinary experience, one where you can visit the garden that grew the herbs on your plate and you can poke around the science experiments that might show up on the menu next year. The restaurant's garden, test kitchen, and bakery are all on-site along with fermentation labs, fish tanks, terrarium, and an ant farm. Outback Steakhouse this is not. Lest it all become too highfalutin, the interiors are lined with humble, local materials like exposed wood and salvaged brick. A greenhouse is light and unassuming, bordering even on utilitarian, and the overall aesthetic hews more closely to the streamlined humanism of Alvar Aalto than the flash and "hedonism" that other BIG projects are known for. The new location opened in Feburary, 2018, and is now available for reservations.
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Olafur Eliasson’s architecture studio completes stunning first building

The Architect’s Newspaper recently did a studio visit with Studio Other Spaces, the architect’s office established by sculptor Olafur Eliasson and his architect-collaborator Sebastian Behmann in 2014. Behmann has collaborated with Eliasson and his research team since 2001 on numerous high-profile projects, and they have just completed Fjordenhus (Fjord House), their first entirely in-office building. The architecture studio, like many offices today, claims to “pursues a research-based approach to the production of space that seeks to expand the estab­lished architectural vocabulary.” But unlike many new firms, this studio has already produced a strong body of  built work (though these were done alongside established architecture firms). Fjorden­hus is a 92-foot-tall office building which sits literally in the water of a disused dock in a fjord in Vejle, Jutland (Denmark) for their client Kirk Kapital. This building project builds on Olafur Eliasson’s history as an artist and claims to be a “total work of art” (Gesamtkunstwerk) and comes as close as any recent building project to achieving that claim. They have designed nearly every aspect of the building, including the windows, doors, carpets, glass, furniture, lighting and of course, the art works. Constructed, for example primarily of unglazed brick it was chosen because it is “the smallest possible building unit” and allows for the organic shape of the building. They also argue that Fjordenhus' intricate brickwork seen from afar “seems orderly” but upon closer inspection, “the different shapes and slightly ir­regular staggering of the bricks’ depth reveals a lively, organic surface.” Moreover, additional colors of glazed bricks are “integrated into its carved-out sections to produce color fades–green from the bottom and blue from the top–that reflect the water and sky.” Given the firm's intense interest in materials from their previous art projects, “every corner, niche, and arc required an individual brick-laying solution; each brick was specially fit into the complex cur­vature of the concrete walls, the overall brickwork lying flush with the curved steel frames and glass elements of the facade.” Further, Fjorden­hus art works don’t so much sit in the space but are designed into the building itself, and include light “installations” like Fjordhvirvel, which encircles Fjordenhus, Undervandsforventning and Den indre “that visually link the lower and upper spaces and create a formal dialogue between the curvature of the building, the daily cycles of the fjord, and the arc of the sun’s path across the sky.” The building is a double shell of local Danish brick that forms “four intersecting cylinders” from which volumes have been carved out to create complex curved, circular, and elliptical forms, torqueing walls and parabolic arches, windows and openings. As the building sits in the water, it is accessible by a footbridge into a double-height ground floor, which is open to the public and is “permeated by the fjord and contains two aqueous zones.” The upper three floors are offices for Kirk Kapital and varying floor plans are on different levels and are organized around circles and ellipses, with specially designed furniture and lights, and are connected by spi­ral staircases and round vestibules. The Gesamtkunstwerk notion might be considered a dated one for architects, but with this firm, coming as it does from the world of art, it has a different idea about how to think about buildings, conceive of space and design walls and facades. There are currently other art practices like Thomas Heatherwick's moving into architectural design, but none have created as convincing a work of architecture as Fjordenhus.
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A visit with Olafur Eliasson’s art and architecture workshop, Studio Other Spaces

The Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson’s multi-story studio is located in an old 19th-century brewery in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg district. The combination artist’s studio, materials research laboratory, and fabrication workshop is outfitted with elegant Hans Wegner furniture, displays of Eliasson projects, artwork prototypes, and a glass-walled kitchen for employees’ daily lunches. Inside this calm, but busy, workshop there is now an architecture office. Directed by Eliasson and architect Sebastian Behmann, Studio Other Spaces is a natural outgrowth of the large-scale public sculptures and installations that Studio Olafur Eliasson has been creating since the mid-1990s. Eliasson has long had an interest in architecture, running an art school called the Institute for Spatial Experiments and working for many years with Einar Thorsteinn, an architect and geometry expert who was a follower of Buckminster Fuller. Studio Olafur Eliasson was also part of the James Corner–Diller and Scofidio + Renfro design team for New York’s High Line park. For several years the art studio has had major clients commissioning projects that were really exterior curtain walls, like the Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall, designed with Copenhagen-based firm Henning Larsen (and winner of the 2013 Mies van der Rohe Award), which has a facade of quartz-like hexagonal sections. Eliasson writes that he believes the “culture sector in our society is more likely to create change than the public sector, the politicians, or the private sector.” This new architecture office is perhaps a vehicle to combine his dramatic public art with a pragmatic social program. This desire by designers and artists to also be architects has a long lineage going back to the Renaissance through the Vienna Secession, and today we see it with artists like James Wines of SITE or industrial designers like Pentagram and Thomas Heatherwick. Given all the requirements of building, it is still not common for an architect to be grounded in art, but with the capabilities of today’s digital practice and the range of large-scale public art, we may start to see more of these professional distinctions erode. Studio Other Spaces’ recent projects and its facility with spatial design shown here is not just branding, but sophisticated architecture. Head of design in Studio Olafur Eliasson, Behmann is an educated and licensed architect and has been consulting on the studio’s architectural projects since 2001, though the studio only recently began to design major monuments all over the world. The architecture office currently has eight architects on staff, all with different backgrounds. Eliasson said he admires architects because “they build buildings for people who are not interested in buildings—they just work in them, or they just sleep in them, or they just eat in them.” This a very good start for practicing architecture. Ilulissat Icefjord Park Competition The park design uses melting ice to shape space based on a unique design strategy where ice is at once the formwork of a concrete structure and the focal point of the resulting space. Icebergs were harvested directly from the nearby ice fjord to create an exhibition building, called the Ice Void, which harbors the memory of the ice that was used to shape it in its walls. Linked to the Ice Void outdoors by a 360-degree path, the Sun Cone building defines the park. The light glass structure of the Sun Cone positions the visitor center directly in the landscape and offers guests a spectacular panoramic view of the surroundings and the Arctic sun. The park helps make the overwhelming experience of visiting the ice fjord comprehensible—providing visitors with a scale for contemplating and relating to the awe-inspiring ice fjord. Fjordenhus Vejle, Denmark The new headquarters of Kirk Kapital rises directly from the harbor of the city of Vejle, Denmark. Accessible by footbridge, the 75-foot-tall building is formed by four intersecting cylinders with brick facades that have rounded negative spaces, creating complex curved forms and arched windows. The brickwork incorporates fifteen different tones of unglazed brick, making a visually rich surface; blue and green glazed bricks are integrated into the carved-out sections to produce color fades that enhance the sense of depth. The ground floor is open to the public and includes two water spaces that are visible from viewing platforms. Facades of Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre Reykjavik, Iceland Olafur Eliasson and his studio designed the show-stopping facade of the Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre in collaboration with Henning Larsen Architects. Reminiscent of the crystalline basalt columns commonly found in Iceland, the facade was built from a modular, space-filling structure called the quasi-brick. The quasi-brick is a twelve-sided polyhedron consisting of rhomboidal and hexagonal faces. When stacked, the bricks leave no gaps between them, so they can be used to build walls and structural elements. The combination of regularity and irregularity in the modules lends the facade a chaotic, unpredictable quality that could not be achieved through stacking cubes. The modules incorporate panes of color-effect filter glass, which appear to be different colors according to how the light hits them; the building shimmers, reacting to the weather, time of day or year, and the position and movements of viewers. Your rainbow panorama Aarhus, Denmark In 2007 Studio Olafur Eliasson won a competition to transform the rooftop of Aarhus Art Museum in Denmark. It offers visitors sweeping views of the city, the sky, and the distant horizon. The elevated 360-degree walkway is 492 feet in diameter and glazed with rainbow-colored glass. Visible from afar, the work divides Aarhus into various color zones and acts as a beacon for people moving about the city—an effect that is heightened at night when lights running the circumference of the walkway illuminate it from within.
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Denmark’s latest maximum security prison designed to feel less like a prison

Denmark’s recently opened maximum-security Storstrøm Prison, the second-largest in the country, is meant to evoke feelings of a small provincial village, according to Scandinavian designers C.F. Møller Architects. Housing 250 inmates, the prison is meant to be rehabilitative while allowing prisoners to avoid the loss of social skills that comes with institutionalization. C.F. Møller has described it the “world’s most humane” prison. Located on Denmark’s Falster island, Storstrøm Prison is organized around central community buildings and laid out more like a campus than a traditional prison. The four prisoner wings and maximum-security hall are sited in such a way as to mimic the urban fabric of the surrounding villages and form streets and squares, softening the transition between open society to a prison. All ten buildings, totaling 115,000-square feet altogether, are kept to a town-like scale as well and are generally the same height. The designers chose to model Storstrøm Prison after a miniature society that would provide inmates with social and practical skills, in keeping with the Scandinavian tradition of encouraging reform among inmates rather than enacting harsh punishment. C.F. Møller chose to work different materials into each of the buildings on the site based on their programming. The five wings have been given a patterned brick façade, the activity building is a mix of concrete panels and glass, and the workshop building is clad in steel panels and concrete. The concrete is also embossed with a circular pattern throughout the campus in an attempt to keep the walls from feeling too institutional. The attention to making the inmates and administrative staff feel comfortable extends to the interiors as well. Because natural lighting was emphasized throughout the project, all of the communal rooms and cells have large windows that are tilted to let viewers to take in the landscape up to the surrounding perimeter wall, without allowing anyone to see inside. A neutral color palette was chosen for the interior, to produce an effect that is calming without being too sterile. A double-height church and several non-denominational worship rooms are also available for both the prisoners and guards to use. Communality is also emphasized, as cells are grouped in units of four to seven grouped around a shared hub, with access to a living room and kitchen where inmates can make their own meals. The cells themselves are curved instead of being harshly angled, so that inmates can see the entire room from the door, while multiple windows fill their rooms with natural light. Still, despite the amenities, the island is first and foremost a prison. A 20-foot wall surrounds the correctional facility, the entire island is covered in cameras, and steel wires are stretched across the top of each building to prevent helicopters from landing on them. Storstrøm Prison is the result of a $160 million commission from the Danish Prison Service, as an attempt to create an environment that would help inmates more readily transition back to society after being released.
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Bjarke Ingels’s LEGO House is finally open to the public

The last brick has been placed on the long-awaited LEGO House in Billund, Denmark. Yesterday, the Danish royal family was on hand to open the building to visitors. Before the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)–designed structure, the city was only famous for architectural splendor of a different (smaller) scale. Now, however, Billund finally has something BIG to shout about.

Flying into the city, it’s hard to miss the almost three-acre LEGO House. The building’s vibrant terraced squares of red, yellow, green, and blue are easy to spot beneath the clouds despite the equally colorful LEGOLAND and Lalandia water park nearby. This aerial view, which will be the first for many who visit the LEGO House and a rare instance where aerial photography and renderings are relevant—hints at the modular structure's 21 rectangular volumes, waiting to be discovered on the ground.

Though colorful from the sky, the LEGO House is predominantly white at the street level. Ninety-thousand white clip-on ceramic tiles wrap around the building, each abiding by the proportions of a two-by-four LEGO brick. This reference to the toy-maker's most iconic brick can be found more explicitly in what Ingels calls the LEGO House’s “keystone.”

Sitting at the top of the building, the keystone features eight oversized circular studs and tops out the LEGO House which rises to just over 75 feet high. Rather surprisingly, this makes the building Billund’s tallest, though this isn’t exactly a tough achievement in the low-rise city.

Billund is very much a company town—something its residents aren’t afraid to admit. Around 3,000 LEGO employees work here, though not all live in the city, which had a population of 6,194 as of 2014. The city center is generally ignored by tourists who visit Lalandia and LEGOLAND, as those going to the latter stay at the LEGOLAND Holiday Village. This is not because the center is far away: You can drive around Billund in five minutes, or walk. The center just has very little to offer, with few restaurants and shops.

Billund Mayor Ib Kristensen is hoping the LEGO House will change that. “I don’t have any concerns,” he told The Architect’s Newspaper (AN). “The LEGO House will bring at lot of guests into the center of Billund and it will help other shops, restaurants,” he said, adding that he estimates the building will bring 250,000 visitors to the city every year.

With the municipality so reliant on LEGO, news of the company cutting eight percent of its workforce was not welcome at the start of the month. The cuts will eliminate 1,400 jobs worldwide, and Kristensen said this would mean 600 lost jobs in Billund. Despite this, Kristensen noted that LEGO House has created 180 new jobs and that the city’s “Triangle Region” has the lowest unemployment in Denmark, though this is partly because many travel into Billund for work.

Locals share the mayor’s optimism in spite of the grim jobs news. Tina Hald Kristensen, (no relation) who has worked in a sleepy cafe opposite the LEGO House for two years, is eager to see an influx in potential customers and revenue to the area. “I think it’s a much-needed positive addition to the city,” she said.

Despite its lofty ambitions and height accolades, the LEGO House is not imposing. BIG struck a sensitive balance with Billund’s topography and sprawling surroundings, while making the statement LEGO want to make.

Steadily rising cubic volumes create two corners that form an orthogonal cascading landscape that provides steps and seating. These rubber-surfaced areas will be open to the public 24/7, while the rest of the roofscape, which includes an assortment of play areas, will only be accessible during official open hours.

Considering the building is an almost all-white structure, with walls and terraces open to the public at all hours, the potential for it being a target of graffiti springs to mind. However, Hald Kristensen stressed that this was unlikely to occur. “Billund isn’t that sort of town,” she said. A wander around the area confirms that there’s no graffiti at all. Potential vandalism aside, it remains to be seen how the white tiles and other white surfaces will be maintained in their pristine condition.

It is in the white tile facade, however, where BIG’s details stand out. On the inside, the tiling continues, gradually pixelating into various shades as you enter different areas, most dramatically into black as you enter the basement.

Here, on the lower level, adults who are still interested in LEGO or played with the toy as children will find a nostalgic treasure trove. This area resembles a museum of the company, going back to its first product. Well-known LEGO and System products line the walls and old moulds used to make two-by-four bricks can be seen. Furthermore, an interactive database of almost all LEGO sets lets visitors scroll through and find their favorite.

Anna Manins, a local resident who is a mother of three, is more pleased that her children will have a place to keep them entertained in the winter when LEGOLAND and Lalandia close down. The LEGO House is ultimately a venue for children. Three hours away in Nørrebro, Copenhagen, Ingels' Superkilen park is evidence that his work for children can stand the test of time. Completed in 2012, the park is still well-used five years on. 

Like Superkilen, the LEGO House uses color as a circulatory means. As denoted by the colored rubber on the terraces, four zones feed off an interior concourse where a shop, restaurant where LEGO robots serve food, and a staircase spirals round a LEGO tree that has carvings of the first LEGO products that were made from wood can be found. 

According to the firm, the Red Zone is for “spontaneous creativity and free-building”; the Green Zone is for "social activities" and “roleplay with your own characters and stories”; the Blue Zone is for “putting your cognitive skills to the test”; and the Yellow Zone is intended to “play with emotions.”

In these areas, children can see their creations come to life on CGI-animated screens and are encouraged to build with each other, contribute to other buildings which are added to throughout the day, race their own LEGO cars, and make stop-motion LEGO movies.

An interesting and unexpected activity is the role of the urban designer. In the Yellow Zone, modular blocks, limited in size to a square base, can be placed around a city-like grid. Custom-made creations can be built around pre-built fixed buildings such as a soccer stadium and concert venue. Similar to playing Sim City, the interactive grid responds to what is placed, demanding at times a particular typology—which you build—be placed in a certain area.

There is room for adulting here too. The accomplished work of certified LEGO builders of all scales —there are only 40 LEGO “master builders” in the world—are dotted around the building. Some are carefully curated moving scenes that tell a story. If you can find it, a depiction of LEGO owner Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen can be found having his picture taken with his leg in a cast (he broke it when the LEGO House's foundations were being laid).

BIG's plans for Billund don't stop at LEGO. Apartments for families, the elderly, and rental apartments designed by the Danish firm are set to be built in the city. LEGO is also planning a new headquarters in the city, courtesy of C.F. Møller, another Danish studio. For the time being, though, small bricks are the only thing anyone is talking about in Billund.