“There was also a real camel at the opening of the building,” says Michael Christensen, with a smile, narrating the birth of the Camel House.
We met with the architect in Copenhagen, in his studio opened in 2006 after 10 years of activity (5 years as partner and creative director) with a historic name in Danish design, Henning Larsen Architects.
The Soil Center Copenhagen – this is the real name of the new building – has gotten its curious nickname due to its particular profile, with two soft ‘humps’ that stand out in the beautiful Nordic light.
We are in Nordhavnen, a large area of urban development to the north of Copenhagen, destined to become a model city in terms of sustainability and ecological choices. Starting precisely with the Camel House, the center in charge of the reclamation of millions of cubic meters of land from worksites in Copenhagen and vicinity, to be reutilized to create new land ‘stolen’ from the sea. With a totally ecological approach, of course.
“It is a very special site,” Christensen explains, showing us an impressive aerial view. “On one side there is an almost lunar landscape crossed by the trucks that bring the earth to the center, which is then analyzed in our laboratories; on the other, almost by magic, there is a green oasis, with an artificial lake whose shores are like Caribbean beaches, in terms of the color and reflections of the water… not to mention the variegated fauna living on the shores (the area has been set aside as a nature reserve).
From the outset,” the designer continues, “we have worked to insert the building in the landscape: the choice of Cor-ten to cover the facades is a part of this effort: the rust color of the material fits perfectly into the context. The zigzag layout follows the shape of the land, and the hilly profile is a reminder of the morphological structure of the Danish territory. The form is also functional for the content, however” Christensen emphasizes, “since it adapts by changing the section depending on the activities positioned inside (offices, garage, storerooms, laboratories).”
The real challenge was to achieve the highest standards of energy savings, making the Camel House one of the 30 best ‘Nordic sustainable buildings’ selected each year by Nordic Built in collaboration with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry of Denmark.
In fact, this is a Zero Energy Building, as Christensen points out: “Since we are in Denmark and therefore also have to come to terms with very low temperatures, the building has high-performance insulation with thick perimeter walls and perfectly insulated floors.
On the roof solar panels are combined with photovoltaic cells that provide the energy for the building, while the positioning of the windows and skylights maximizes the quantity of light during the day: an increase of daytime brightness of 25 to 30%, leading to considerable energy savings.
The idea is innovation, in the spirit of a ‘sustainable mission.’ Because architecture should be generous, it should never remove but instead exchange, converse, enhance. Always.”
Text by Laura Ragazzola – Photo by Adam Møerk