Cosmic Laboratory

Cosmic Laboratory

Studio Christian Wassmann
Aarhus, Denmark
Studio Christian Wassmann

Cosmic Laboratory, Aarhus School of Architecture Competition, 2016

Studio Christian Wassmann as Architects

The rays of the sun and the activity of students are in constant dialogue in the new Aarhus School of Architecture. It is a conversation between two entities that cross multiple dimensions: space, time, and experience. With the original two buildings and the new structure standing at a combined 10,000 square meters, what results from this interaction is the flexibility of a place and its ability to create an architectural experience that slowly reveals itself. It produces a network that transcends the eye and the senses, and creates an architecture that is active. To make the ephemeral spatial is to make an experience architectural.

By using the sun’s path on the shortest and longest days of the year, we have begun to explore how students and faculty alike can interact and produce exciting work in light-filled spaces that connect to the surroundings. To accomplish this, we employ two cones that index the sun’s transit on the two Solstices. Their form as our generator, we found that the axes they map produce two lines perpendicular – a condition unique to the latitude of Aarhus – to one another that present the opportunity to place two passages that link the School’s main programmatic elements.

More than just corridors, these spaces function as arcades where students and faculty can appropriate space as they like. It allows for impromptu discussions and presentations that lead to new discoveries. In the studio spaces, the arcades have no defined boundary, allowing them to take on multiple roles throughout the semester depending upon teaching method or work demands. Dotting the building’s interior landscape is a grid of columns that are not only structural, but also invite students to find imaginative ways to partition the studios.

When working with the cones, we found that their form ideally lends themselves to the demands of a fabrication hangar and an auditorium. Constructed using a radiating two-way glulam structure, the large underside of the southern cone makes for a perfect space to house a column-free workshop equipped with a wide range of machines, and the cone’s roof becomes an open-air sculpture garden. Come summertime, the workshop opens up onto a landscape laboratory where students can experiment. On the northern edge of the building, the cone’s upward-facing concavity makes for an auditorium space that opens up onto Aarhus’s urban fabric. Spruce clads the undersides of the cones, giving a sense of warmth when paired with the raw concrete of the columns and floor slabs. As a didactic tool that is flexible, all mechanical and electrical installations are exposed.

We designed this building with flexibility and expansion in mind. Beginning with a strategy of conserving the organic landscaping strategy started by the Institute for X, we think of the competition site as a place that is always evolving. That is why with little capital investment, the open layout of the studios and classrooms is readily adaptable to the demands of new architectural pedagogies. This in conjunction with the strategies of the eternal sun cones and the arcades allows the building to be scaled up in the future if the needs arise. This is the first step towards creating a building that connects to the city and the cosmos. 

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