Is This CEBRA Education Centre Good Architecture?
14th June 2015The HF & VUC Fyn Adult Education Complex houses 1300 students in the city of Odense, Denmark. It is a building that I am completely undecided about since it has architectural elements I love as well as some that I loathe. Of course, this article will just be my opinion and should not be taken as fact, however it’d be interesting to see who agrees and disagrees with my comments and why.
I am a big fan of the material choices. One of my favourite combinations is wood and white walls, which creates a clean and simple aesthetic in the complex. The expansive spaces seems bright and welcoming, which will no doubt encourage students to use them. The wooden elements highlight important aspects of the design, such as stairs etc. This is a design technique used by many architects where a change in colour or texture can improve the ease with which users navigate a space.
Gridded exterior. Photo by Mikkel Frost/CEBRAThe exterior of the building is considerably more uniform than the interior it encloses, however the alternating panels which differ in material add interest. The irregularity of the glazing is a subtle and engaging touch, especially in low evening light. The large concrete columns, some of which are slanted in order to break up the grid of the rest of the facade, may represent the strong knowledgable base from which adults can learn at the centre.
Inspired by Mickey. Image by CEBRAThe inspiration behind the centre’s interior form was Mickey Mouse, since he, as well as other Disney characters, are essentially represented by a series of increasingly detailed and complex circles and ellipses. This concept was so embedded in the design process that some of the building illustrations are drawn in a Disney style with Mickey featuring. In my opinion the concept is fun and novel, however I do have some issues with how it’s been incorporated into the design.
At university, we’re often warned against “shape making”, the lazy technique of using wacky shapes in designs to add interest. Tutors despise shape making as it serves no purpose. True architectural beauty is born as a result of detailed function analysis that is then transformed into a creative, original and perfect organisation of space. If this is achieved, the form will often develop into an engaging shape anyway, and it will be fundamentally tied to the characteristic of the space that it encloses.
Elliptical forms and awkward spaces. Photo by Mikkel Frost/CEBRA Questionable columns and strange stairs. Photo by Mikkel Frost/CEBRAWith this in mind, I think a lot of shape making has occurred in the centre. There are awkward corners and spaces defined by curved balconies, for example at the end of the staircase in the middle image. Also on the main staircase in the first image there is a kink halfway up the stairs. This would create an odd sensation when using the steps as humans are most comfortable walking straight up or down steps with an equally straight bannister that we can run our hand along. Some of the columns also look as though they’re in awkward positions.
For the most part I think CEBRA have delivered a very successful building. To me the design process and concept seem interesting and exciting, as well as unique, however sadly in reality the building falls short due to some key wrong decisions. It looks as though the architect has stuck rigidly to the concept, perhaps sacrificing some usability in order to retain the image of Mickey.