Architecture Shapes Behavior
The keynote speaker March 16, 2012, at the VSAIA Design Forum X will be Kim Herforth Nielsen, MAA, RIBA. He is the founding principal of 3XN, Copenhagen. A graduate of the Aarhus School of Architecture, Nielsen founded his firm only five years later. And, as the firm’s driving force, his works include The Blue Planet, Kubus in Berlin, Museum of Liverpool, Ørestad College, Muziekgebouw Concert Hall in Amsterdam, the Danish Embassy in Berlin, and the Architects’ House in Copenhagen. He has juried international architectural competitions and lectured at art academies and universities around the world. Among his many awards, Nielsen is a Knight of Dannebrog and has received Denmark’s highest architectural honor, the C.F. Hansen Medaille.
Here he lays out his firm’s philosophy on the global design market in which he excels.
I would first define a Scandinavian design tradition as one that puts the user at the center of any objective. Out of this, follows a particular concern for form and function. I believe that 3XN further develops this set of values into a philosophy that examines how architecture shapes behavior—and applies them to academic buildings (Ørestad College), cultural buildings, (Museum of Liverpool) and modern office spaces (Saxo Bank).
Another way that 3XN interprets Scandinavian design tradition—or perhaps more specifically Danish design tradition—is placing an importance on daylighting. The way that we work with daylight ensures that the interior works together with the exterior—and that again is important for the end user of the building.
Daylighting, form, function, and behavior are all related to a Danish design tradition, but 3XN pushes these values further to emphasize inclusiveness, an architecture that is about interaction of users that encourages people to meet and discuss and learn from each other. There are many elements to Danish design—such as detailing, materials, and sustainability. But, again, these are also connected to the main idea of form and function centering on the end user.
3XN is an innovative firm—we are constantly challenging ourselves by pushing the boundaries of architecture. And though our roots lie in Danish design tradition, we differentiate ourselves both locally and internationally. It is the only way to stay fresh and relevant in today’s world of architecture.
It is important not only that we live up to, but also set new standards for the building industry. 3XN aims to develop architecture that helps improve the world we live in, architectonically and environmentally. The most exciting stories are the ones that describe what is actually happening in the buildings. The art of architecture is to build a sculpture around the patterns of movement and the synergies that arise among people.
The 3XN philosophy
Architecture shapes behavior. That is why we try to create places where people can interact and communicate and where synergy can develop. We believe that buildings, like people, are more than just the sum of their many parts. We believe that it is possible to achieve a synthesis of design, function, and context. That is why a holistic approach is our guiding principle, and why we are forever exploring the possibilities of building better, cleverer, more beautifully.
3XN was founded as Nielsen, Nielsen and Nielsen in Aarhus in 1986 by the architects Kim Herforth Nielsen, Lars Frank Nielsen (partner until 2002) and Hans Peter Svendler Nielsen (partner until 1992). The studio quickly became known for two things: their preference for social and humane architecture, and projects demanding a high level of detail and employing workmanship of the highest quality.
Our first international breakthrough came with the courthouse in Holstebro (1992), which was followed by a number of first prizes in architectural competitions, such as the Architects’ House in Copenhagen (1994), The Glass Museum in Ebeltoft (1995), the Oceanarium in Hirtshals (1996), the Danish Embassy in Berlin (1998), and the concert hall Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam (1997). The two latter structures made a name on the international architectural scene for the artistically ambitious Danish architecture with its social approach and carefully planned spatial formations.
The Muziekgebouw, completed 2005—together with Museum of Liverpool (2004) and Kubus in Berlin (first prize 2007)—shows the expertise on culture buildings and prestigious international projects, with emphasis on original solutions in plans, facades, and organization of the interiors.
The revolutionary design of Danish upper secondary school Ørestad College (2004-2007), together with a number of original corporate headquarters designs such as FIH, Deloitte, Saxo Bank, Horten, and KPMG, show that 3XN, through daring concepts and design create architecture that contributes positively to learning and working environments.
These innovations are also reflected in master plans and housing projects like the Lighthouse in Aarhus and the new Denmark’s Aquarium, The Blue Planet, in Copenhagen. The latter is a spectacular design inspired by a whirlpool, which the critic of the Danish daily Politiken found so original as to warrant a comparison to Jørn Utzon’s opera house in Sydney.
GXN—G for green
In 2007, 3XN established GXN; a research and development department working with digital tools, new materials, and green technologies to ensure the studio’s leading position within building sector innovation.
It is important not only that we live up to, but also set new standards for the building industry. 3XN aims to develop architecture that helps improve the world we live in—architectonically and environmentally.
In 2007, 3XN Architects established GXN, an in-house research and development department. Specializing in green and digital architecture, new materials, technologies, and working methods, the department aims to push beyond the boundaries of modern architecture.
GXN continuously researches the development, use, and implementation of material technologies, making them available for designers, engineers, and architects. Digitalization has created new design and production methods that can be used to form a new kind of architecture. At the same time, discoveries in the world of science—particularly in the fields of biology, chemistry, and physics—allow for the creation of customized materials for very specific functions. These are called intelligent materials. The GXN vision is to find a balance between boundary-breaking research and traditional solutions.
The department focuses on four primary areas:
• Internal innovation processes connected with the project work of the architectural studio and design competitions
• Research into the commercialization of new material technologies for the building industry
• Experimental design in the form of both showcases and product lines for established design manufacturers
• A number of collaborations with Academic organizations or institutions that are research related.
The GXN team is composed of a range of talents, including architects, scientists, and other PhD level enthusiasts.
Sustainable solutions can sometimes be associated with architectural compromise. We believe the contrary: That green architecture can be dynamic and active, with sustainable materials having a justified potential in architecture. Sustainability for 3XN is about more than just energy, it affects a range of important social, economic, and environmental aspects. We therefore look beyond just energy efficiency of the finished building, but also look at the building process, the working conditions for the laborers, and the building’s overall life cycle; the latter being an overall view of how the building will go up and come down, the material’s recyclability, as well as how the process affects all involved parties.
3XN always maintains a close dialog with the client to determine a customized sustainability strategy for each new project. In some cases, it is relevant to implement intelligent design, while in others there is a large benefit to investing in advanced materials or technologies, which can also contribute to added value in the long term. 3XN is well positioned to deliver the highest levels of design conforming to LEED, BREEAM, and ESTIDAMA standards. We take pride in designing buildings that combine the newest technology and sustainable solutions with groundbreaking architecture.