As mentioned in my previous post, about our model workshop, I promised to do a post on the actual winning proposal on the real site as soon as it was published. I expected it to appear a few weeks after my previous post, but to my surprise, it came only a few days after.

The winning project is designed by Copenhagen-based Entasis architects, who have designed the projected in collaboration with WITRAZ architects, who have especially been involved in the design of the landscape(s) created on the site. The buildings and landscape on the site are expected to stand complete by the year 2018.
Just by looking at the bird's eye picture above, the approach to the site is quite clear. The architects have followed the block structure of the neighbouring buildings and continued it onwards. At the the last plot of the site, the architects have chosen to leave the area empty for a public park instead of completely filling the site with the institutional buildings. The kindergarden is the white building placed closest to the lake at the bottom of the site.

As for the architectural language of the project, the new buildings have almost strict, contextual facades that strongly relate to their surroundings. As a whole, the architects themselves describe their project as a direct continuation of the local urban-structure (also architecturally), rather than being a more radical or different architectural site in relation to the surroundings. The picture above shows how the new buildings follow the structures surrounding it, acting as a natural continuation of the street scene.

There are many elements of this winning proposal that can be discussed. First of all, the direct continuation of the block structure is very questionable. Guru and I (our group from the Model Workshop) had a similar approach as a part of our concept process. It seemed natural to continue working on the site in a contextual sense, but we rather quickly learned that the scale would be to large and this development would seriously limit the possibilities for views from the different rooms. As a matter of fact, Entasis' and WITRAZ's approach has created such a density on the site, that it not only leaves the vast majority of rooms without views towards the lakes, but also introduces a height that would allow very, very limited sunlight in the courtyards created, thus making them uncomfortable, perhaps even claustrophobic. It is like all the buildings are squeazed into one part of the site, in order to open up for a park. In our group, we believed that it seems more harmonious to evenly spread out the buildings, in order to create varying outdoor spaces from private to semi-private and public. 

Also, the location of the kindergarden is questionable, since I believe it would be more suitable for it to be located facing the newly created park, rather than steal the view of the lakes from the elderlys lving there. As for the facades, I believe that the archtitects have made a right choice here. They relate contextually to the surrounding buildings in a positive way, as well as adding some more modern details, such as the roof areas and also at buildings such as the kindergarden's facade. Furthermore, I am curious to see whether or not the newly defined park area will actually function as an active recreational area. It is well defined as a space in my oppinion, but I can't see how well defined the expected activities of the park are. It seems to be a bunch of trees with some paving around them and a few benches - you would expect more from such a vital location in my oppinion.

To sum things up, I generally believe that the architects could have had a greater focus on integrating the site actively with the green pathways around the lake, rather than closing the institutional buildings up even more, in order to strictly stick to the context of the area. This is perhaps an example of the result of too strict contextual design. As always, the visualizations of the project are optimistic and light, but I am very sceptic as to the actual outcome due to the highly concentrated density, lack of a variation in public, private and semi-private exterior spaces as well as the lack of views from the rooms. It is naturally hard for me to not be critical towards this project, due to my personal relations and readings of the site as a result of our model workshop, so I am also looking forward to see how the final result works out (but there is a long time till 2018!).

Further reading:
- Entasis Architects
- WITRAZ Architects

- Andy Minchev


After a tiresomely long research assignment (the first half of the Atlas assignment), we finally got a design project! Having not designed anything at all during the entire summer vacation, I was really excited to once again be able to put my creative skills to use. The joy was limited though, since it was only a model workshop that lasted mere two weeks.

The goal of the workshop was primarily to learn more about a method of design through trial and error with concept models. The workshop was done in groups of two, and for this, I joined creative forces with Guru. We were told to basically do as many models as possible and keep trying them out until we get a concept for our site that was right. Secondarily, our goal was to practice working in a larger scale (one that is between local and urban planning). Our site was located directly by the beautiful lake areas of Inner Copenhagen as shown above. 

The existing area on the site is a home for the elderly, and our goal was to redesign the existing slab complex into a more pleasant and vibrant area. Function-wise, the area would remain for the eldery, though with an addition of a kindergarden. Our first thoughts were to (quite obviously) preserve the opportunities for views of the lakes for the elderlys. This was a high priority, though not our primary. Our greatest focus was to open this rather large plot towards the public and allow for cafés and public recreational areas. By planning the site with a somewhat dense city structure, we have tried to create small spaces and passages between the newly created buildings on the plot. We believe that this narrowing of the site will create more spaces for activities and relaxation, as well create a balance between public and semi-public spaces.

Our approach towards achieving this vibrant new area, was firstly by sticking to a contextual design. At first, we took our first steps through mimicing the Copenhagen block structure, which is basically a closed rectanglur structure with a private inner court. We took great efforts in reading the surrounding area, and placed our structures according to the existing trees on the site, pedestrian movement lines, the surrounding road connections, building heights, etc. After having placed our abstractions of the Copenhagen blocks around the site, it still seemed to closed and uninviting. This led os to reverse our perspective on the Copenhagen block, and rather take the qualities of the very diverse inner courtyards of these. By doing this, we ended up with three large buildings (formally in the shape of the Copenhagen block), which were now fragmented into smaller connected structures with different shapes, heights and perhaps even facades. This design strategy creates a sort of city-within-city kind of development, that appeals to the human scale, and also avoids looking like a hospital-like structure (something we also took great measures to avoid!). Finally, our kindergarten was placed in the upper right area of the plot. The kindergarten is a stand-alone building, but it mimics the design language of the elderly home and creates an almost replica-like structure. The area between the kindergarten and the lake opens up as a completely public green area with facilities such as a small football plane and a green belt that connects the lake path to the street on the other side of the plot. All this should be visible on the plan photo above.

The most interesting part of this workshop, was to work with this model-based method. This method is very popular among young Danish architectural firms such as JAJA Architects, Adept Architects, BIG and so on. The model is (and has always been) a very powerful tool during the design process (in my oppinion), but personally, I believe this method has its issues. One thing I noticed very early during the design process, is that the shape and form of the created models is too dominant. It felt like working with shapes rather than context most of the time, and personally, I am against that sort of architecture. As a matter of fact, Guru and I had to stop after the first week and rethink our entire project through a process in which we primarily focused on the context for a start (which is more like our normal design method). This approach led to much more specific concepts and in the end led to our final model. My personal conclusion was quite simply, that thorough study of the site's context in the beginning really pays off, rather than taking a more form-based approach. This is undoubtfully a personal matter, but nevertheless my own oppinion.
As for the crit; the majority of the comments were largely positive towards the result of our work, while our design process was slightly questioned. The latter is without question due to our change of method towards the more contextual one, but since the result was welcomed very warmly, I am quite satisfied with our choice of sticking to our own methods.

P.S. This site has an actual competition that is completed at this point of time. The result of the winning proposal is expected to be made public within the coming few months, so it will be very interesting to see which group in the class came closest to the winning proposal (if any). I'll post about this in the future.

- Andy Minchev