Creating space for learning: On Danish-designed education buildings


Photo credits schmidt hammer lassen architects

The City of Westminster College is placed in Central London and designed by schmidt hammer lassen architects.


Photo credits schmidt hammer lassen architects

schmidt hammer lassen architects won the competition in 2006.


Photo credits schmidt hammer lassen architects

The City of Westminster College is made for new ways of learning.


Photo credits schmidt hammer lassen architects

A great atrium connects the floors visually at the City of Westminster College.


Photo credits Torben Eskerod

A newer building at Aarhus University: The Lake Auditoriums.


Photo credits Poul Ib Henriksen

A donation of one million yellow bricks came from the United Jutlandic Brickworks, when the first building at Aarhus University was built.


Photo credits Erik W. Olsson

An aerial view from above the University Park in Aarhus with the characteristic yellow brick buildings among the trees.


Photo credits Poul Ib Henriksen

A view of the orthogonally placed buildings of Aarhus University.


Photo by Jens Lindhe

University of Southern Denmark in Kolding is designed by Henning Larsen Architects.


Photo credits Jens Lindhe

An inside view of the University of Southern Denmark in Kolding.


Photo credits Jens Lindhe

University of Southern Denmark in Kolding is 13,700 square metres big.


Photo by Jens Lindhe

A view of the dynamic façade at University of Southern Denmark in Kolding.


When designing education buildings, many parameters must be considered. As with every other kind of architecture, space, colour, light, shape, size and volume are just some of the things you should consider. When designing architecture for learning, you must also think about optimal solutions for learning and well-being.

We have taken a closer look at three Danish-designed education buildings in which form and function come together to create interesting spaces for learning. With two located in Denmark and one in England, we examine the diversity in the buildings’ shapes and sizes.

The first is the flagship campus for the City of Westminster College in London, which is 24,000 square metres. Created to support new ways of teaching and learning, the new college was designed by the Danish firm schmidt hammer lassen architects, who won the assignment in a 2006competition.

According to schmidt hammer lassen architects, the new campus provides larger areas for open learning spaces than other colleges in the UK because the learning spaces are designed to be adaptable and flexible, responding to the needs of the diverse groups using them.

From the outside, the building appears clean-cut and modern with simple geometric forms rotating around a terraced atrium, giving a distinct Scandinavian feel. The large atrium is the heart of the college, where the different floor plans surrounding the atrium have visual connections from one floor to another while offering light-filled, open, inclusive spaces. According to the building’s architects, this design encourages interaction between students.

This building is highly energy sufficient and sustainable, and the choice of colours for the building are inspired by its context and the change of seasons. Contrasting with the exposed concrete surfaces, the light timber panels lining the interior highlight the Scandinavian design heritage.

The next project is Aarhus University, which was designed by the Danish firm C.F. Møller Architects. The university buildings date back to 1933, and the university is Denmark’s second biggest with over 43,000 students enrolled. C.F. Møller Architects has directed the design of the university buildings throughout the university’s history.

Renowned and praised for its consistent building mass, the buildings are all variations of the same prismatic volume and feature the same roofing tile. This gives the whole campus, which is over 240,000 square metres, a unified look. Many of the yellow bricks used for the original buildings on the campus came from United Jutlandic Tileworks, which donated one million yellow bricks.

The university is based in a park (The University Park) in central Aarhus, and it includes teaching rooms, libraries, offices, workshops and student accommodations. Oriented orthogonally to form individual clusters, the entire campus shares the same architectural vocabulary. The first main building, which was constructed in the 1930s, is included in the Danish Ministry of Culture’s canon of Danish architecture, which acknowledges the building as one of the 12 most important architectural works in the history of Denmark.

Lastly, we move 100 kilometres south of Aarhus to Kolding, where the University of Southern Denmark has built one of its campuses. The Kolding campus of the University of Southern Denmark was designed by the Danish firm Henning Larsen Architects, and it opened in the summer of 2014.

At 13,700 square metres, the University of Southern Denmark in Kolding is not the largest university campus, but the quality of its architecture cannot be denied. Including a dynamic facade that is an integrated part of the building, the Kolding campus creates a unique and varying expression in which the façade and the building interact with each other.

The dynamic façade is about more than just expression. The triangular elements it consists of are movable, and they regulate the inflow of light in front of the insulated façade. Due to a number of other initiatives, including cooling using water from the Kolding River, mechanical low-energy ventilation and solar cells, the façade also creates a sustainable building.

Inside, students find a five-story-high atrium with triangular-shaped balconies and displaced positioned staircases. The irregularity of the indoor space creates a dynamic room where triangular patterns repeat in a continuous variety of positions up through the different floors.

According to Henning Larsen Architects, the objective of the structure is to create interactions between professors, researchers and students while providing an area for quiet contemplation.

The goal of DANISH™ is to promote Danish architecture and design in a broad perspective, and demonstrate all the potentials in these fields.

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