Abstract thinking in CEBRA's winning proposal for an Adult Education Centre
Danish architects CEBRA, along with developers Pihl & Søn and engineers Hundsbæk & Henriksen have won the competition for a new Adult Education Centre of 12,500 sq m in downtown Odense, Denmark’s third largest city. The new educational institution will accommodate a staff of 215 and around 3,500 students throughout a year. According to the plans, the Centre will open at the beginning of 2014.
The winning proposal aims at creating a flexible and diverse learning environment that gives room for individual needs in a collective building. The design is characterised by a system of curved lines and rounded forms, which cut through the building volume’s regular form and create transparent and various spatialities around a central atrium - a duality that creates interaction, diversity and versatility in regards of both the internal and external organisation of the new AEC.
Architect Mikkel Frost, co-founder and owner of CEBRA, outlines the project’s basic idea: “We designed a school that doesn’t look like a school. The general conception of a completed educational degree as a security to fall back on is subjected to a fundamental review. We have realised that we must learn constantly in order to adapt to ever-changing reality. An Adult Education Centre will play a pivotal role in maintaining society’s competences in the future. It is therefore essential that it is built on lasting values that revolve around the individual. The building has to adapt to the student and not the other way around.”
The building is organised around a transparent and very active atrium, called the Agora and named after the public gathering place in ancient Greek cities that constituted the centre of political, spiritual and artistic life in the city state. The levels of activity decrease gradually from the Agora and outwards with the most calm and private spaces located along the building’s outer edges. At the same time, this organisational principle is transferred from plan to section with the highest levels of activity and transparency at the bottom and spaces for contemplation at the top floor.
The Agora’s central gathering point consists of a sculptural, cone shaped staircase. Besides functioning as a social and visual point of reference, the staircase also is a point of orientation towards the rest of the building with visual contact to the café, administration, information desk, multipurpose hall, stage and additional functions. Thus, it can be used as a viewing platform, social meeting point, lounge area or amphistands in connection with the stage.