A jolt of colour in developing community

First images of CEBRA's colourful Grundfos Kollegiet Student Housing project in Aarhus

by Sian 18 December 2012
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    One of Grundfos Kollegiet’s remarkable characteristics is providing student housing in the heart of Aarhus’ new harbourfront development - that is, a low cost residential building on a very attractive site. Like many other industrial harbourfronts, the former container port of Aarhus is being transformed into a dynamic new neighbourhood. Grundfos Kollegiet is one of the first finished projects in the area that on completion will be home to 7,000 inhabitants and provide 12,000 workplaces. Its total site area amounts to 800,000 sq m making this development one of Europe’s largest harbourfront city developments.

    To reinforce the primary purpose of the building, which is to provide a place for students to live while they study, the project works with vertical stripes as a metaphor for books. From afar this makes the building look like books on a shelf, while close up it resembles a condensed micro-city with small bundles of mini towers.

    Each little tower is treated differently both inside and out with different materials and window openings. This creates a variety of living accommodation, suitable for singles, couples or friends living together. The towers are designed to be different heights in order to incorporate technical facilities on the roof, accentuate the main entrance and provide a rooftop terrace with a view over the waterfront and the city. These purely functional considerations end up giving this micro-city a unique skyline of its own.

    The ‘towers’ are placed on the perimeter of the site establishing an open inner space that uses a simple design strategy to create an atrium with attractive functional as well as aesthetic qualities. The individual apartments are reached from balconies, which are encasing the 12-storey atrium with mirror-clad balcony fronts. The mirrors are transforming the sense of space by expanding the relatively narrow atrium with endless kaleidoscopic reflections of itself and the people moving through it. The mirrors also contribute to a more activating common space by supporting the social aspects of a dormitory building. The reflections assist orientation across several floors from one location allowing you to see people or activities that are located directly beneath or above you.

    In a similar way, the colours in the atrium enhance orientation across floors. As an equivalent to the façade’s division into towers, the graphic and apartment door colours are used to form vertical bands of red, orange and yellow from the bottom to the top floor. Besides being a low-cost method to create striking spatial features, the mirrors also reduce the need for artificial lighting by reflecting a maximum of daylight from the large skylight all the way down to the lobby.

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