Aarhus School of Architecture relocates to “living laboratory” by Adept

Timber-framed library in New Aarch by Adept

Architecture studio Adept has created an industrial-style building for the Aarhus School of Architecture in Denmark, with workshop facilities for students and the local community.

Called New Aarch, the new Aarhus School of Architecture building consolidates the facilities of its 10 previous locations into a single space on the site of a former railyard.

Aarhus neighbourhood surrounding New Aarch building
New Aarch is the new home for the Aarhus School of Architecture

The building is designed by Adept to feel like a place for making and experimentation, rather than a formal institution.

Many facilities are open to the surrounding neighbourhood. This creates opportunities for cross-pollination between students and their neighbours, who include Institut for X, a self-build incubator for creatives and start-ups.

Workshops at the new Aarhus School of Architecture building by Adept
Its ground floor spaces are designed to open up to the neighbourhood

“The dream was a robust structure, a living laboratory of architecture,” said Adept partner Martin Krogh.

“The design allows interior and exterior spaces to blend, not only through literal transparency, but also by questioning what is the school’s space and what is the city’s,” he continued.

“This means that both the surrounding urban environment and the curricular activities will shape the building in the future. It is a building that was designed to never be enough in itself – only through its occupants is it complete.”

Timber-framed library inside New Aarch in Aarhus
A timber-framed library extends up through all four floors

Adept teamed up with fellow architecture studios Vargo Nielsen Palle and Rolvung og Brøndsted Arkitekter on the competition-winning design, before being commissioned to take it through to completion.

The 12,500-square-metre New Aarch building is organised over four storeys that gradually step down from the northwest to the southeast end of the site.

Timber-framed library at the new Aarhus School of Architecture building by Adept
The structure was built using recycled wood

Ground-floor spaces have ceiling heights of around six metres. There are also various double-height spaces in the building, creating scope for flexible use.

Materials both inside and out were chosen with robustness and sustainability in mind.

Externally, exposed steel I-beams frame a grid of floor-to-ceiling windows and cast concrete.

Inside, floors are made from wooden offcuts from a window manufacturer, while the timber-framed library was built using a repurposed shelving system from another building nearby.

Interior of the new Aarhus School of Architecture building by Adept
The building has a deliberately industrial character

The result is a structure that feels highly utilitarian, with all service ducts and vents left exposed.

“If you want to a space that can be used, the key is not to polish it and make it shiny,” said Adept partner Simon Poulsen.

Aarhus workshop interior
Workshops are located on the ground floor and can spill outdoors

“We wanted to continue this industrial character and really emphasise the fact that it’s a factory for architecture,” Poulsen told Dezeen.

“The whole building, both inside and outside, is made without trying to cover things like ventilation tubes. Everything is exposed and very visible, like the in-situ cast concrete.”

Roof of the new Aarhus School of Architecture building
A roof terrace provides extra outdoor space

In use since late 2021, the building provides space for approximately 100 staff and 600 students.

The ground floor accommodates the workshops and library, with many spaces open and accessible to the public. Upper levels provide studios, administrative offices, teaching rooms and research labs.

Exterior of New Aarch, the new Aarhus School of Architecture building by Adept
The facility has been in use since late 2021

Poulsen said the layout was planned with the future of the building in mind. Its design includes the option of a 2,500-square-metre extension.

“Nobody knows what the needs of this school will be in 10 or 20 years, so providing a huge amount of open flexible space that can be used in different ways was key,” he added.

Glazed exterior of Aarhus School of Architecture
The structure could be extended in the future if required

New Aarch was longlisted for Dezeen Awards 2022 in the civic building category.

It also features in the Oslo Architecture Triennale exhibition Mission Neighbourhood – (Re)forming Communities, which presents strategies for building better urban neighbourhoods.

Other projects in the show explore topics including rewilding and co-living.

The photography is by Rasmus Hjortshøj.

Project credits

Client: Danish Building and Property Agency, Aarhus School of Architecture
Lead consultant: Adept
Engineer: Tri-Consult
Contractor: A Enggaard
Competition + concept proposal: Adept, Vargo Nielsen Palle, Rolvung & Brøndsted Arkitekter
Additional consultants: Steensen Varming, Lendager Arktekter, Etos Ingeniører, A2, Nord
Landscape: Adept
Art: Lea Porsager
Library: Praksis Arkitekter

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