RUM - architecture in a circle of sustainability

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architecture in a circle of sustainability

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Dear reader, At RUM, we’re driven by a passion for spaces that provide more than a physical framework, spaces that promote mental and social wellbeing. Just as importantly, we want our buildings to make sense in a human and environmental perspective, and that means an integral focus on all aspects of sustainability – economic, technical, environmental, and social. In short, we want to create architecture that has not just purpose but meaning. In this e-book, we present a small selection of projects illustrating the result of fusing those ideals with an inclusive work process; creating an open and equal relation with clients and partners is the starting point for all our work. As you will see, it is not just simple and functional, but also aesthetic, Nordic architecture. As you turn the page, we hope that you, like us, will find inspiration, meaning, and joy in the architecture and ideas that have helped our company spread the beauty and values of Nordic architecture from the smallest towns in Denmark to a million city in China.

RUM’S HISTORY Founded in 1970, RUM (which is Danish for SPACES), today, employs around 60 people in its offices in Horsens and Copenhagen. Throughout its history, the architecture firm has had an integral focus on sustainability and inclusive processes with users and clients. Prioritising diversity and the value of differences, RUM, today, employs people from various parts of the world from

Kind regards

Denmark and Norway to China and Rumania.

RUM partners Anders Johansen, Karin Elbek, and Claus Jensen

Address: Horsens Office Emil Møllers Gade 41B 8700 Horsens Copenhagen Office Vesterbrogade 124B 1620 København V Contact: Head office Tel: +45 79433400 Email: info@rum Karin Elbek Tel: +45 40 15 46 11 Email: Online: Website: Facebook: Instagram: LinkedIn: RUM

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REDRAWING THE BOX Intergenerational cohabitation, tables on the ceiling, and housing blocks designed for disassembly – when it comes to creating sustainable architecture, RUM is not afraid to draw outside the box. Actually, the Danish architecture firm might redesign the box altogether because while the lines on the paper may be straight, the vision is circular; it is 360 degrees of sustainability.


aving celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2020, RUM’s focus on sustainability is deeply anchored in the roots of its practice. At its foundation is a strong reliance on user engagement and meaningful processes, something which inevitably creates a wide-ranging focus on social, economic, technological, and environmental sustainability, explains partner Karin Elbek. “We think about sustainability from every possible angle, all 360 degrees. Our work is defined by collaborative processes and user engagement, and that inherently generates a strong responsibility towards the future users of our buildings as well as their surroundings. But that doesn’t mean we don’t make amazing architecture; on the contrary, those two are not contradictions.” With its head office in Horsens, Jutland, and an office in Copenhagen, RUM has created a long string of projects within healthcare, housing, education, culture, leisure, and business all over Denmark. The firm’s distinct approach has even taken its design as far as to Chengdu in China, where RUM, in 2018, finished a major school and kindergarten project. The school is just one of many learning institutions RUM has worked on. Many of them multifunctional and many with innovative features such as, in one example, a hoisting system allowing extra tables and chairs to be stored underneath the ceiling.

Tables and partition walls are stored underneath the ceiling.

It has always been about people Creating flexible and multifunctional spaces is one of the numerous ways RUM works to create a greener and more sustainable architecture. Another is the use of elements that can be moved or disassembled and reused in other buildings. “The construction industry in Denmark is strongly regulated in terms of environmental standards, so the bar is high from the outset. But on top of that, we have made a conscious choice to work with a high awareness of our carbon footprint, the materials we use, and circularity,” says Elbek. “The other aspect of it is the social sustainability; for us that means to not just solve the assignment but to create something extra in terms of the life quality of the people that use our buildings – in the end it’s about people; it’s always been about people, also before we started talking about sustainability.”

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THE HOUSE OF GENERATIONS – building diversity and connection Set on the waterfront of Aarhus, the House of Generations provides a strong example of how value can be created sustainably by facilitating social diversity and connections rather than adding more materials and square meters.


y bringing together senior homes, care homes, family homes, youth residences, and a childcare institution, the House of Generations has become an example of how, in architecture, sometimes, one plus one makes three. To create the interpersonal dynamics that generate this surplus value, mergers between house functions have been promoted. For instance, the care home and the nursery are linked to allow children and elderly residents to meet in shared functional areas. “It’s about creating synergies within the building, and when you have children and elderly people in the same building, that will happen,” explains partner Claus Jensen. “The vision is to create a feeling of connection between people who are, though they are at different ends of their life cycle, essentially very much in the same situation.”

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To facilitate those synergies, the house, a 28.000m2 multifunctional complex of eight interconnected buildings, comprises a blend of private, semi-private, shared, and public spaces. For instance, residents may choose to live in “community clusters” which include shared recreational and functional spaces; or they can live in one of the “neighbourly” areas, which include larger private residences and smaller communal areas. However, while some facilities are shared and different zones offer different levels of openness, all residents have their own private home. This allows inhabitants with smaller homes, such as students and senior residents, to enjoy their recreational or study time in, for instance, the shared roof garden or orangery and to retreat to their private sphere whenever needed.

FACTS: The House of Generations’

28.000m2 comprise 100 care home units, 100 senior homes, 40 student flats, 40 family homes, and 24 disabled homes; a day care institution; service areas and public functions such as a café, multi hall, health clinic, and sensory room; a 3000 m² outdoor space

With public facilities like a café and multi hall, the same kind of merger is created between the community within the house and the neighbourhood at large.

and a 3000 m² underground basement with a carpark, storage spaces, and more.

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– straight lines, circular visions After a successful architectural tender, Circle House, a Danish pilot project, has landed in the hands of RUM. The result will be the world’s first public housing project designed for disassembly.


s the winner of the architectural competition for the Circle House project, RUM is set to explore the possibilities of a systematic approach to circularity and sustainability through design for disassembly. The housing complex will be designed in concrete and wood and will have a minimum of 90 percent of elements that can be disassembled one to one for future conversion and reuse. “We have always worked with a strong awareness of environmental issues, carbon footprints, and circularity, and design for disassembly allows us to completely rethink architecture in the light of those concerns,” says partner Karin Elbek. “We have to look at how elements are connected and make sure that we can take them apart again. In short, we design and build the house so that we can take it down again the same way.”

The project will be the world’s first public housing project designed for disassembly and will include the development of a new system for assembly (and disassembly) of building blocks. To explore different possibilities and attract a diverse group of residents, the design includes a number of variations including two five-storey point blocks, a three-storey building, and terraced houses. All the buildings will be designed with concrete elements but with the top-floor constructed in wood and wood claddings on all facades. In exploring different potentials, the experience of future residents has been a focal point of consideration. “We want to understand how living in the Circle House will affect its inhabitants; we want to learn from the project but have also designed it to allow for the disassembly design to create new opportunities for residents. For instance, they may be able to add or get rid of certain elements such as walls and panels,” explains Elbek.

FACTS: The development of Circle House has involved more than 60 organisations contributing to all parts of the building’s value chain. Lejerbo is the developer. The development will be the first public housing project designed for disassembly. The development will comprise 60 homes in Lisbjerg and a

total of 5467m2 indoor space. It is set to be completed in April 2023.

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LANGELANDS SQUARE – climate proofing the city At first glance, it may look like nothing more than an attractive city plaza, but the new Langelands Square is more than that. It is a place to pause and play, a space for ballgames, and a guard against climate effects; underneath it, a three-storey carpark provides safe and easily accessible parking.


ocated in a busy area of Frederiksberg, the new Langelands Square allows locals to pause, enjoy the soft babble of the water fountain, and let the children splash about in the large paddling pond. But the area is also Denmark’s first climate changeproofed and -abating square. The permeable surface not only helps secure the area against storms and flooding while cleaning surface water for pollutants, thanks to special nitrogen oxide absorbing tiles, it also improves air quality. “The plan for the underground carpark, allowed us to be very progressive in the way we worked with the sub-surface,” explains partner Claus Jensen. “The surface is permeable, and, underneath it, a large spongelike structure accumulates the surplus surface water from the surrounding area, stores it, and then slowly releases it in a way that means the fluid evaporates, cools the surface, and helps improve the air quality.” Out of sight, below the ballpark, play area, and paddling pool, the square’s three-storey carpark is intended to facilitate a less cluttered and calmer city landscape. Through bright light and music, the underground space is designed to, at one and the 10  |  RU M – a rchitecture i n a ci rcle of s ust ai n ab i l i t y

same time, make its users feel safe and comfortable while deterring troubled characters from repurposing the space for unwelcome activities. Above it all, ivy-covered stair towers rise into the square bringing daylight into the underground and integrating the structure into the other green elements of the square.

FACTS: Langelands Square is located in Frederiksberg, an independent municipality within the city of Copenhagen. Finished in 2019, the new square includes a playground, paddling pool, water fountain, ball court, fitness facilities, toilet, benches, greenery, and a three-storey underground parking house.

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– creative social sustainability With innovative and eye-catching architectural solutions, Campus Bindslev in Silkeborg has become a prime example of how sustainability and creativity can complement one another. Opened in 2016, the building serves to strengthen and join the communities of seven of the town’s educational institutions.


ometimes, a client’s desire to create buildings that are both socially and environmentally sustainable can act as the springboard for new ideas and creative solutions. This was very much the case with Campus Bindslev, a multiuse educational “marketplace” commissioned by Silkeborg Municipality to bring together the town’s different educational institutions and organisations.

dividual institutions was another guiding principle. It is demonstrated in, among other features, the large central “marketplace” where performances, projects, and shared events take place. Like other rooms, the space is multifunctional and can be transformed into 15 smaller learning zones. Furthermore, one of the rules of the building is that it can never be used by one institution alone. To book it, institutions need to team up in groups of two or more.

One of the special requests for the project was that no space should be wasted on storage. To fulfil this and, at the same time, design a flexible and multifunctional building, RUM came up with a unique storage system for extra tables and partition walls; until lowered via a computer-controlled hoisting system, the furniture elegantly dwells on the ceiling, much like a sculptural installation. “Sharing and saving spaces have always been core elements in our work, but as there’s an increasing focus on sustainability, it’s making more sense to more people now,” explains partner Karin Elbek. “Often, we measure a building’s sustainability through its materials and how many resources are used to produce them, but another aspect, which is important, is not to build more than necessary.”

FACTS: Campus Bindslev is a 1.400 m² learning space

However, it was not just environmental sustainability that shaped the unique design for Campus Bindslev. The wish to create social sustainability in the form of strong learning communities across in-

functioning as a meeting place, project base, and event house for the library and a wide range of educational institutions in Silkeborg.

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TOFTEN CENTRE FOR REHABILITATION – architecture that heals Toften Centre for Rehabilitation is designed to actively facilitate healing and recovery; structurally stimulate a feeling of safety and privacy; and aesthetically build a sense of calm and connectedness.


ntended to simultaneously optimise employees’ work routines and stimulate a fundamental feeling of safety for residents, Toften Centre for Rehabilitation is designed in a circular shape. On the inner side of the circle, a peaceful green courtyard, large window panels, and open spaces create a feeling of calm and connection. On the outer side of the circle, private rooms and doors that open op to small terraces give recovering residents a feeling of safety and privacy. The centre includes 28 private rooms for residents as well as training facilities for both resident and non-res14  |  RU M – a rchitecture i n a ci rcle of s ust ai n abi l i t y

ident users, all typically referred to the centre for rehabilitation after a hospital stay. Thus, for many, the centre functions as a temporary residence before returning to their home. Some patients may, however, be transferred to the centre for terminal treatment. This means that the centre has to facilitate the needs of day users, residents in rehabilitation, and patients that will spend their last days at the centre. “The focus is very much on healing architecture; it’s about healing people for the life ahead of them, but also about creating a healing feeling inside the structure, allowing people to make the most of the time they spend there,” explains partner Claus Jensen. Towards this purpose, RUM has drawn on a number of the tools that define Nordic architecture; soothing materials like wood, daylight, and calm spaces as well as textural and sensual experiences. Furthermore, a close collaboration with healthcare professionals has helped create a meaningful distribution of functions throughout the house. On top of increasing work efficiency, the layout actively encourages residents to move through the house in safe and architecturally defined pathways training both physical and cognitive abilities.

Toften Centre for Rehabilitation was finished in 2018. The 1800m2 centre includes 28 private bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms as well as training facilities and a number of recreational areas and outdoor spaces.

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JERNLAGERET – reconnecting the town with its waterfront

Transforming a 70.000m2 former industrial site into a new sustainable neighbourhood, Jernlageret in Horsens is amongst RUM’s most notable projects.


et in, and named after, an old iron storage, Jernlageret will see a variety of private and social housing complexes, commercial facilities, and attractive outdoor spaces open up the previously desolate waterfront to all of the town. “It’s been important to us to ensure that everybody will have access to the water, not just the residents of the new neighbourhood,” explains partner Claus Jensen. “That’s also one of the reasons we’ve been extra attentive in creating new passageways to the town centre and ensuring that outdoor spaces are designed in a way that takes the sun and wind into consideration – we want them to become spaces that people will be attracted to.” The outdoor areas will also encompass storm and flood controls in the form of recreational elements such as ponds and artificial rivers. A major component of the mainland part of the project was finished in 2020. The next step is the connected peninsular and the northern part of the harbourside.

FACTS: Jernlageret is a 75.000m2 city development including buildings, parking areas, public spaces, and the establishment of a harbour canal. The project was initiated in 2016 and is expected to be completed in 2025.

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– inviting the public inside With a DGNB Gold certificate (awarded by the Danish branch of the German Sustainable Building Council), the new public administration building in Tørring has become the small town’s beacon of sustainability.


ith an open and light office layout, wood elements, and smaller enclosed areas, the new administration building in Tørring offers employees a modern, social work environment with comfortable acoustics and a merger of open and private work zones. But the building is not just designed for the people who work there. With the ground floor’s reception, café, and meeting rooms open to the public, the hope is that locals will stop by, and organisations make use of the space during evenings and weekends. Furthermore, on the top of the building, a large rooftop terrace is open to the public 24/7. “You can walk straight from the central square of the town and four floors up the external Heaven staircase to the green rooftop garden,” explains partner Anders Johansen. “From there, you can always enjoy wonderful views of the town and, sometimes, special events.” The rooftop garden is designed to facilitate events and concerts of up to 50 people. FACTS: The 1500m2 administrative building in Tørring was completed in 2020. The building is the workplace of 95 public employees. Apart from office facilities, the building comprises a public reception, café, and meeting rooms as well as a large public roof top terrace.

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