a project by 3XN
Copenhagen, Denmark, Completed 2009
3XNs design for Danish Law Firm Horten’s new head office reflects the duality between the classic and the modern. The building combines solidity with an advanced choice of materials expressing Horten’s solid integrity as well as the firm’s visions for new, future forms of collaboration.
The volume’s travertine-clad facade reinterprets the classic concept of a corporate head office. Depending on the angle, Horten’s facade gives the impression of being a craggy cliff face, an ocean blue glass facade or an intricate geometrical pattern of chunky diagonal, vertical and horizontal friezes. The facade elements were developed especially for this building’s complex geometry while taking on board the requirements for sustainability. The elements were designed to ensure a pleasant working climate with beautiful bay window views towards the water while avoiding direct sunlight. Sustainability, in other words, is integrated in the architectural design itself: The building units are consciously designed to ensure that the building’s energy consumption is 10 per cent less than required by the energy guidelines in the Danish building code.
The emphasis is placed on a spatial experience with optimum daylight conditions in the individual offices as well as in communal areas. The main layout places the offices in two angled building volumes with open atria between them, creating visual contact between the two. Between the atria, distinctive sets of stairs criss cross up through the circular stairwell, the spine of the building, creating interaction and contact between storeys.
From Arch Daily:
Danish law firm Horten wanted their new headquarters to present itself in a contemporary as well as classical and solid way. Our solution was to design a modern office with a new interpretation of the classical stone-clad facade.
Inside, the building appears light and open with a flexible structure encouraging informal meetings and knowledge sharing. The dynamic atmosphere is intensified by the complex and innovative exterior expression.
A unique façade design was developed in order to set new standards within sustainable solutions. The three dimensional façade in fiberglass and travertine works as a screen against the sun while still providing a view to the water. In this way, the architecture itself is actually the main contributor to the energy savings of the building.
From the start, the objective was to design a building that didn’t just live up to the existing energy saving requirements, but that set new standards in surpassing these environmental regulations in the building code.
In order to shield against overheating, it was necessary to design the building in such a way that it is closed to the south and opened to the north. Because of the three dimensional relief, the facade works as a screen against the sun, thus allowing a pleasant office temperature. This is done while still providing a view to the water with each office having its own individually framed ‘bow’.
In other words, it is the architecture itself that has contributed most to energy savings in this building; the building’s orienta- tion and the facade’s three-dimensional self shielding design.
With its unique design, the facade is also unique in its material composition. To adapt to the special geometry, it was natural to design using new and innovative building materials and methods.
If the same facade was to be built using traditional construction methods (ie. steel frames), it would be a challenge to build each element separately and therefore difficult to keep uniformity. By contrast, by taking the decision to build completely out of fibre- glass, it becomes possible to mass produce with much fewer discrepancies amongst the various building elements.
- In our research, we found several relevant references to ships and windmills – but no building projects with self-supporting and insulating fibreglass elements, says Bo Boje Larsen, Architect and Partner in 3XN.
The production method using fibreglass has been well known in many capacities, which allows for accurate projections and the know-how to actually design with it. The ‘innovation’ has been integrating fibreglass into building design.
The end result is a facade design which consists of two layers of fibreglass composite, with a highly insulated core of foam; upon which is placed an outer layer of travertine.
In order to keep within the budget, it was necessary to design a facade with as many repetitions as possible without losing the unique expression of the building. Making the floor slab design zig-zag shaped allows for a very rational and efficient way of attaching the facade. In addition, by making optimal use of the moulds, it is made possible to realize the complex geometry without compromising the original architectural vision.
- Two years of research and development doesn’t really feel like hard work when we begin to see the results take form. The hardest challenges have actually been the most fun. In fact, it is these challenges that enrich the experience of an architect, says Olaf Kunert, an Architect on the project at 3XN.
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