The Green Lighthouse

07.30.2011 § Leave a comment

This was not really one of the buildings I had planned on visiting, but it is right on my route to almost anywhere and it had some nice features. I am buried in blog posts from the places I have visited (6-8 still waiting to be done), so I will try to get them updated in the next few days. With Anya and Desmond arriving in 2 days (!) and jetlag most likely tagging along for the next week, I may have a backlog beyond then. Anyway, I was not that excited about the building upon reading about it being the next “green thing”, but it surprised me in scale and detail…

The Green Lighthouse houses the student services for Copenhagen University’s Faculty of Sciences on Tagensvej. The proposal, originally titled the “Sundial,” was the winner of a 2008 architectural competition for a new building for the university. It was designed by Christensen & Co Arkitekter A/S and completed in 2009. It is a fairly compact three-story building that has been acclaimed for its carbon neutral footprint; it was the first carbon neutral building built in Denmark. More info on the energy/heating systems and daylighting is here. There is a ton of documentation on the systems and it has an impressive list of visitors, including the Russian president and Mayor Bloomberg.

The building sits protected within the campus, and is well landscaped to create a pleasant small quad within the mostly admin buildings, along with a swimhouse and a library. It is constantly being referred to as a beacon, but it is not the most public building. I had ridden by the site a number of times before realizing it was there. Once inside, the subtle landscape details were interesting.The mixture of solid pavers to organically demarcate the path, along with the worn grass on less formal routes made a nice transition from the street to the courtyard.

I was surprised by the cladding, which I had assumed to be aluminum but is actually a translucent glass fiber composite. Not to get into too much technical detail, it was a nice surprise and lends a lightness to the structure that the suggested copper and travertine would not have had. Here is the link to the product, Swissfiber.

The interior is immaculate and open with only a few enclosed rooms for appointments or meetings. The desks and lounges are all arranged around the center atrium without a sense of hierarchy among the people working. It is a well proportioned space and has a very intimate atmosphere, which is reinforced by the fact that people can talk across the space to one another even floor to floor. One other observation was that this is one of the first buildings that has really consciously window placement. In comparison to the majority of the buildings I have seen, which tend to use curtain walls, the only large banks of glazing are at the main entrance and patio (the two cutouts, which also have a different material – similar to the “Universe” it has a simple, diagrammatic rigor that is easy to understand and a clean aesthetic).

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