Morten Rask Gregersen - NORD Architects
Guest of this appointment is Morten Rask Gregersen, co-founder in 2003 with other two partners of NORD Architects, a Copenhagen-based firm, established with the aspiration to make socially relevant architecture, capable of engaging the community and creating inclusive environments. Aware of some radical changes that are affecting our society, continuously evolving, they devote substantial efforts investigating alternative solutions, suitable to the new living conditions that are gradually emerging. Their projects, based on great empathy and respect towards diversity, embrace a relevant number of healthcare realisations, learning environments and public housing.
‘Co-create’ characterizes their approach, implying a broad participation of consultants and experts, with the aim to reach the best solutions and provide solid bases for the future implementation, along with the spontaneous involvement and a sense of ownership by the future users.
Their works featured in two dedicated books, have been published in leading international magazines and recognised with the Mies van der Rohe Award in 2011 and 2013, respectively for their Natural Science Center and Center for Cancer and Health, along with other acknowledgements, as the City of Copenhagen Excellent Building and Urban Space in 2012.
Morten Rask Gregersen is regular speaker and lecturer in academic as well as other contexts, both in Denmark and internationally.
The conversation starts by deepening the idea of ‘co-creating architecture’, an ideal, according to which the office was conceived and founded as an open practice, far from traditional introverted models. At that time the team was particularly involved in democratic refurbishments of complex social areas, a commitment remained unchanged over the years. We then explore that concept of healing architecture they support and encourage, epitomised by one of their earliest and most famous works, the Cancer Center in Copenhagen, exemplar of an innovative design, striving to shift the focus from illness to cure, without stigmatising the patient, offering through a welcoming, familiar ambience positive future perspectives.
Vardheim Healthcare Centre, in a municipality of Norway, a new centre embracing various healthcare programmes, is another project of interest among the new generation of their welfare public proposals, rejecting the appearance of a massive, intimidating institution. The organisation of the human-scale architecture, reproducing the typology of a village constituted by small entities, develops opportunities of cross-fertilisation of knowledge between different specialisations, inspiring a homely atmosphere.
Two Alzheimer’s Villages, respectively in Oslo, Norway, and in Dax, France, address with sensitivity and emphatic attention the delicate conditions of people affected by memory’s problems. Both the environments dignify this situation with small clusters of houses rich of green courtyards and recreational activities, re-creating a micro community and intending to maintain a continuity with the normality of the previous everyday life.
Several considerations are reserved to their selection of natural materials, their responsible sustainable approach foreseeing efficient, long lasting design solutions.
Fusing learning environments with urban spaces and local community’s life is another purpose they try to implement coherently with all their interventions, convinced that school has to be more open, an active place inside and outside, where creativity, synergy and healthy relations with the community evolve. The importance of learning especially in practice, through shared knowledge is a pivotal training element highlighted by the new school in the historic Meatpacking District of Copenhagen. Another open learning platform, the Natural Science Centre, realised in central Denmark, just at the beginning of their practice, emphasises with its intentional iconic shape the value of new methods of teaching natural science, inspiring young generations to learn this discipline immensely relevant for our future.
The conversation concludes mentioning a new complex of student housing, in Gellerup, Aarhus, a poor, difficult residential area currently under redevelopment, where they are trying to reserve as much area as possible to give young residents the opportunity to initiate and be engaged in some activities.