Henning Larsen Architects’ Kolding Campus has now become reality at a strategic location in the city, after years of study and construction which began with the Danish University’s 2008 competition. The project centres on a dynamic, functional, expressive system of sunshades.
Henning Larsen Architects responded to the competition for a new university campus for the study of the arts, communication and languages which was to be not only a centre for university students but a monument to culture in the city of Kolding, Denmark. Its strategic location near the railway station, the port and the river flowing into Kolding fjord demanded a design in the round, a sort of sculpture on an architectural scale that would stand out as a landmark in the city. This led to the radical choice of a plan in the shape of an isosceles triangle, rising six floors up with three regular, imposing glass walls broken up by a light-sensitive covering which embraces them and transforms their image.
The need to represent the dynamism of the university campus before the outside world and offer the highest quality lighting for the lectures and laboratories that take place inside the building led to the choice of a continuous glass façade with an insulating system made up of 1600 steel sunshades. These perforated modular elements are mobile and mounted on a frame, with sensors constantly monitoring light and temperature levels and a mechanical system for varying their orientation to maintain perfect climatic conditions.
The shape of the module returns to the triangle theme, the key iconographic element in a design which is based on technology but has a highly distinctive image. The light-sensitive modules recall nature’s protective and defensive systems, reminding us that architecture is a highly expressive living organism.
People entering the building pass through a great hall designed to be a sort of covered plaza, with balconies, terraces and private and public spaces, rising the entire height of the building and linking all six floors. The relationship between the parts is maintained by rotating the triangular floor plan on its own axis on each level: the empty space formed in the centre is never the same shape, but intentionally generates overhangs and hollows which are linked by stairways and create usable spaces. This visual whirlwind leaves visitors gaping open-mouthed the first time they see it, the architects report.
The internal layout of the floors positions the classrooms around the outside, leaving the connecting spaces in the middle: looking at the floor plans, the regular rhythm of the perimeters contrasts with the empty spaces and total freedom of the layout of the central area. The aim is to extend the places for spontaneous communication and interaction among students as far as possible, multiplying the number of individual and group study spaces, designing comfortable work islands which are separated but located along shared routes. Study is thus treated as a collective ritual in which every student learns by observing his or her neighbour and sharing ideas.
Design: Henning Larsen Architects
Client: The Danish University and Property Agency
Location: Kolding (Denmark)
Structural design: Orbicon
Landscape design: Kristine Jensens Tegnestue
Total usable floor space: 13700 sqm
Project start: 2008
Completion of work: 2014
Steel and glass façades, steel sunshades
External cladding of steel sunshades (dynamic sunshades)
Photos: © Jens Lindhe, Martin Schubert