• PROGRAM: Administration, Studios, Library, Civic Kitchen, Lecture Hall, Public Spaces, Informal Learning, Masterplan
  • CLIENT: Aarhus School of Architecture
  • PARTNER IN CHARGE: Alessandro Orsini & Nick Roseboro
  • TEAM: Andrea Debilio
  • STRUCTURAL: Format Engineers – Stephen Melville, James Solly
  • ENVIRONMENTAL: Transsolar KlimaEngineering – Shrikar Bhave, Jacqueline Kuo, Melissa Furukawa
  • RENDERS: Architensions
  • PRESS: Mark Magazine #62 June – July 2016,  A As Architecture

Architecture must relate to urbanism. Under this premises the design for the new Aarhus School of Architecture wants to establish a relationship between the educational facility and the city fabric through a highly inspiring space totally open to the users. The school is conceived as a social condenser where students, city officials, professors and international visitors can use the same space to share knowledge, information, for the advancement of the discipline.

Taking inspiration from the richness of the site, we have conceived a building with a section inspired by the typical pitched roof in the area. However their aggregation evolved according with the angles of the sun during the different seasons maximizing the quantity of light and heat on the roof surface.

The resulting composition is a succession of faceted roofs in Cor-ten steel and glass. The large glass panels create openings on the upper floor to allow natural light in the studios and learning spaces.

The massing of the building has been elevated to maximize urban porosity at the ground floor allowing communication with the surrounding areas and the exterior functions. The functions have been conceptualized as a collection of primary shapes distributed in a physical volume that provides the frame for their organization. It is the urban fabric of the city entering the ground floor, which contains the most public activities while the studios and the laboratories have been placed in the upper floor.

The floor slab is organized on slight different levels, like small depressions on the ground plane providing proper separation from one activity to the other without the confined physical boundary of a wall. Walls are dissolved into low semi-transparent or solid partitions for privacy, or reconfigured into volumes within the spaces.

The double height voids are moments to showcase 1:1 architectural models of building components and placed in a way to be visible from the many informal learning areas. The main shapes within the floor plan have functions assigned according to a timeline where many other activities can happen throughout the day maximizing the use of the spaces. Interior floors and roof are framed in exposed steel and concrete planks, with integrated air and services distribution in the core voids. The resulting architecture aesthetics is characterized by the raw presence of concrete revealed by the interplay of natural light flooding the spaces from the skylights.

The landscape design distributes functions around three urban courtyards protected by a green wedge on the south-east side with permeable paving that incorporates bio-whales filtering polluted water.

The school is a hybrid vision of the future that combines bridge tectonic, loft spaces, theoretical learning with practice and human requirements with scientific principles.

Structural Concept

The structural solution for the new Aarhus School of Architecture has been designed to be a robust yet elegant repeating structural steel frame supporting pre-cast/in-situ concrete floors and a pre-cast concrete roof. This creates an open and light internal environment with a huge potential for flexible distribution of internal function.  Although the roof has many different angles of pitch along its length it has been rationalised to a series of simple pitched frames.

Economy of Design

We have carried out an initial structural analysis to determine the maximum member roof and supporting column member sizes. Using this we have been able to ‘tune’ or optimise the steel frame automatically so that the lightest members can be used in each instance. This will be refined further in the next stage of the design, creating the most cost and energy efficient frame.

Structural Frame

The structural frame consists of repeating pitched secondary steel frames at approximately 5m centres on plan supported by structural steel columns at 10m centres. Primary steel beams at the head of the column support the frames between columns. The secondary roof beams and primary beams between columns are both open I sections, a maximum of 610mm deep, designed with moment connections at the opening and closing corners. The columns are 400mm diameter circular hollow sections. The repeating steel frames support thin pre-cast concrete planks. The pre-cast planks are groute together where the roof pitch allows giving diaphragm action against wind loads.

The first floor is a structural steel/pre-cast concrete framed solution for compatibility with the steel frame above and to allow relatively large spans between walls and columns. An in-situ concrete topping will be laid over the pre-cast planks to give composite action with the steel beams to reduce their depth/weight and the allow the whole floor to act as a stiff plate, transferring wind load from the perimeter bracing to the stiff internal walls around internal offices. Below first floor level the structure is a watertight in-situ reinforced concrete box with slabs spanning between columns and foundations.


The building structure has been designed to be as efficient as possible with repeatable detailing within the context of the varying roof pitch. Hence as little as possible material has been used in the design. Steel/pre-cast planks can also be easily dismantled and recycled. The exposed pre-cast concrete plank soffits can be exploited within the environmental design of the building for their thermal mass.

Common Tectonics