In Copenhagen, Denmark, two residences for students recoup impressions of Nordic design and the genius loci, with the aim of constructing spaces for integrated communities, bringing out values of habitat quality and social cohesion

In a dynamic society such as that of the present, attending school in different locations is a widespread option. Students are now global nomads, who often have to spend their college years in anonymous or even dismal places, organized exclusively as “dormitories.” Yet a student residence should be more than a place to sleep: the experience of studying away from home is not just for learning, but also for personal growth, which architecture should sustain, embracing its inherent social function. The Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen said, “The purpose of architecture is to shelter and enhance man's life on earth and to fulfill his belief in the nobility of his existence.” This eminently social role of design is deeply rooted in Nordic culture, starting from the spread of Scandinavian functionalism and organic design since the 1920s, seeking to improve quality of life through a balance of form and function.

This is the same orientation shared by BaseCamp, the leading investor and developer of student housing in central-northern Europe. To date, in all the completed projects - Germany (Leipzig, Potsdam), Poland (Lods) and Denmark (Copenhagen and Lyngby) – the conceptual approach has been the same: scrupulously user-oriented design, for students and other types of tenants, formulating spaces of integrated communities with a focus on habitat quality and social cohesion. In Denmark, the BaseCamp properties are in Copenhagen (Sølvgade and South Campus) and Lyngby. The latest ones, BaseCamp Lyngby and BaseCamp South Campus, are located respectively in a new building designed by the firm Lars Gitz, and in a structure that once belonged to the Royal School of Library and Information Science of the University of Copenhagen. In all the facilities, the interior design has been assigned to the Berlin-based Studio Aisslinger, forcefully underscoring the visual identity and cultural leanings of the developer.

The studio’s design philosophy is based on the conviction that design can experiment with materials and suggestions from various sources, sampling, mixing and reinterpreting the selected aspects to give rise to a blend of subtle cultural references to the context. Generally, great importance has been assigned to the quality of the very comfortable residential spaces, in relation to highly recognizable communal zones. The latter are the places where the community gathers and interacts, with a fresh, playful image in which the tradition of Scandinavian design resurfaces in bright, lively tones, variegated textures and natural materials. For all the projects commissioned by BaseCamp, Aisslinger has encoded a coordinated image in collaboration with outstanding names like Rolf Benz, Cappellini, Wästberg, Kvadrat and B.Lux, to produce the items designed by the studio. In particular, the new Thonet 1140 table has been specially designed for BaseCamp Lyngby, and then launched on the market. BaseCamp Lyngby is located in an area of high quality, inside a nature park.

The organic structure of the architecture is clearly inspired by the surrounding landscape: a building with sinuous lines, linking back to Aalto, with variable height, hosting residential spaces and forming an enclosure, whose center contains the building for community activities, on three levels (basement: lounge bar and recreation; ground floor: reception, shared kitchen, laundry and cinema; first floor: study and fitness areas). The initiative sets out to encourage community relations for all age groups: the structure contains 639 one-room units for students, 48 studios for senior citizens and 99 corporate apartments, in the conviction that a good social mix becomes the added value of a “microcosm” where older people coexist with students and managers, sharing spaces and amenities. Just as nature and variety are the inspirations of the architectural design, so the interiors take their cue from these factors. The spaces, flooded with daylight thanks to the full-height windows – pleasant and necessary at this latitude – are pervaded by continuous references to Scandinavian culture and design.

The communal areas are multifunctional and attractive, to guarantee social interaction across the day, with visual interconnections; the private zones are more intimate and cozy, offering lively chromatic contrasts. Everywhere the figurative language is permeated by remarkable multiplicity in the types of furnishings, in vivid hues but also in materials with more subdued, natural colors.

At BaseCamp South Campus the existing building on three levels contains the reception area and vertical circulation on the ground floor, shared spaces (cinema, fitness, laundry, study and relaxation) in the basement, with bedrooms and study zones on the first floor. The common spaces are marked by geometric patterns and brash colors inspired by the 1960s: the walls and furniture have intense hues, from the orange tiles in the kitchen to the violet motifs on the walls, and corridors in multiple tones (blue, red, yellow, green and violet). On the first floor, the furnishings take on a more sober character, while the lively suspended ceiling is a tribute to Arne Jacobsen.

Two projects that without intellectual posturing state their affinities with a contemporary humanism that indeed puts people at the center, with their needs and aspirations, across the private and collective dimensions.

Interior design by Studio Aisslinger - Photos Nicoló Lanfranchi