New Danish Crown headquarters can function for at least a hundred years
Danish Crown’s new headquarters in Randers is a unique interpretation of the Danish three-winged farmstead – on a large scale. The brick building has been awarded both DGNB Gold and a DGNB Heart for its particularly healthy indoor climate. Here, Mikkel Frost, architect and founding partner at CEBRA Architecture, shares the design considerations behind the grand office building.
"Everything merges together. The artistic idea is supported by the technical idea, and our profession’s most important task is to balance the two."
This is what Mikkel Frost, architect and founding partner at CEBRA Architecture, says about the recently completed project in Randers, where food producer Danish Crown has built its new headquarters. The brief called for a building that would draw inspiration from the past and future. The result is so successful that Randers Municipality presented the new domicile with an award at Architecture Day in October 2023.
Today, Danish Crown is a high-tech company, but we had to try to balance the architecture with Danish agricultural heritage and everything they stand on the shoulders of today – in a modern interpretation. That’s why we’ve selected symbols from agriculture and taken the farmers’ classic longhouses as our starting point," says Mikkel Frost.
Old Danish farmsteads have typically consisted of buildings arranged in two, three or four wings. And since Danish Crown has three departments in the organisation, it was natural to use them as a starting point for the three wings of the office building.
"The building shouldn't look like a farmhouse. But using the farm as a theme and a principle to work from has been a driving force behind the creative work process," he explains.
A healthy building with a heart
A key design element is the use of brick, which is inspired by classic timber-framed facades, but as abstractions and not one-to-one. The headquarters only includes brick and no timber. Instead, a linear pattern is created with brick beams.
The bricks are used both indoors and outdoors, and the colour yellow was chosen since reddish stone would otherwise make it too dark inside. Mikkel Frost explains that the brick facades are extremely durable: they don't need to be painted, and there's almost no maintenance, and Randers Tegl, who supplied the materials, bakes the stones using natural gas.
The site in Randers where the Danish Crown building was built, is elevated and the terrain slopes towards the river Gudenå, offering a beautiful view. The building opens ups towards the north, so there is less sun and the interior doesn't overheat.
"We have a really well-insulated building. With stricter insulation requirements and triple glazing, it can be difficult to get rid of heat, but here we have tried to minimise the glass areas that the sun hits."
In general, healthy and robust materials are used in the office building, which is also DGNB Gold and DGNB Heart certified. The heart certification is about the health and well-being of the people who occupy the building.
Mikkel Frost explains that the project team went on a study trip with Danish Crown to find inspiration for the right solar shading that could meet their goals.
With the increased focus on aesthetics, good acoustics and indoor climate, Troldtekt acoustic panels were chosen for the building’s ceilings – primarily the award-winning Troldtekt line with concealed Troldtekt ventilation.
"Troldtekt line was a perfect match for the bricks in the joints, while at the same time creating a good acoustic environment. The natural colour also matched the brick, so it was a bit of a no-brainer for us," says Mikkel Frost.
Long durability as a parameter
Although one could argue that brick as a load-bearing material is not the most environmentally-friendly material, Mikkel Frost points out that it gives the building a much longer durability.
"We calculate a building’s climate impact from a 50-year perspective, but with masonry a building can easily last twice as long or more. It makes the most sense to look at the overall lifespan, but it can be difficult to compare the carbon footprint of buildings when other materials don't have the same lifespan," he says and adds:
"We're always talking about energy consumption and climate impact. Where you make the most difference is right from the start, where you commit to the basic decisions about placement, orientation and materials. In the long term, you can also bake bricks at low temperatures, for example. But manufacturers must be able to keep up."
So how does the architect ensure that office buildings can still function aesthetically after 50 years? Mikkel Frost replies:
"Actually, it’s quite simple. Buildings designed without care, where you may not even have contacted an architect, do not have a bright future. If, on the other hand, you build with care and love, and put extra energy into the details, proportions and solutions, the building will last for a long time. This is where you'll want to renovate rather than demolish. These buildings are characterised by timeless qualities – plenty of daylight, good visibility and natural wayfinding."
More trends in the new office landscape
When the coronavirus pandemic hit the world in 2020, office workers were forced to work from home. Now the question is whether they want to return to a large office space or still prefer to spend most days at home.
Mikkel Frost says:
"The picture isn't quite clear yet. Some companies want their employees to come back to maintain office culture, while others are prepared for employees to come in from time to time. And should they then have fixed workspaces or be mobile?
The solution is a versatile interior design," explains Mikkel Frost, "and in fact, CEBRA has always designed different types of spaces for either immersion or collaboration, as well as lounge areas, phone boxes and the like. Just like we see with Danish Crown’s new office building.
When I started designing office buildings 25 years ago, the very open spaces and large areas were popular as a counter-reaction to closed-cell offices. For some employees it worked well, while others couldn't concentrate at all. Today, I think we're somewhere in between, in a hybrid version with both open and closed spaces. This creates an architectural diversity that many of our customers are looking for."
Photo: Mikkel Frost, architect and founding partner at CEBRA Architecture.