When the Room Becomes Canvas

By Rasmus Holm, Architect MMA former Project Manager at 3XN
Expansion and renovation

When 3XN, a couple of years ago, was contacted by Ramboll with the intention to investigate the opportunities to expand the Ramboll house, it was clear from the outset that the lask was not only to create more square metres, but at the same time also to create an entirely new working environment, with due respect to the original house. The rational and bit buttoned-up office, that 3XN had designed for Ramboll in 1997, should be developed to betler support knowledge-sharing and mutual collaboration between the departments. The aim was to open up and cre­ate space for dialogue and because Ramboll was also to include an educational division, there should be enough room for the many course participants each day.

The solution proved to be relatively simple

The original Ramboll house was similar in layout to the letter 'E' - !hat is to say a main building with three wings, which were separated by two courtyards. By the addition of a new length at the end of the three wings, and covering the two courtyards with a glass roof, one creates a radical change in the structure and flow of the house.
The new section contains the new office space. At the same time the existing E-structure was changed to an 8-figure and thus creating a continuous flow created between the five buildings' hallways.

At ground level between the buildings an all-new centrally shared space has been created: the atrium. The atrium, formed by the two former courtyards, is connected with the surrounding buildings at ground level through a series of penetrations of the facade. In !his way, a coherent joint plan on the ground floor is created and the atrium be­comes the core of the house. Here one linds Ramboll's functions such as the foyer, conference rooms, the lounge, meeting rooms and the canteen. The room is part of the daily flow of staff - the staff meets internally, formally and informally, on their way to work, to meetings or to the canteen.

The art on the wall

The idea to integrate an artwork onto the south wall of the atrium occurred early in the pro­cess. The wall's central location in the Ramboll house was obviously a reason for this, but it was lhe decision to occupy the entire wall with acoustic panels thai made the wall an obvious candidate for the job.

However, there were challenges: The wall's (and hence the work's) monumental size had to be balanced in relation to the surrounding space, and for functional reasons the acoustic panels were not painted in the traditional sense. Furthermore, account had to be taken of the UV radiation from the large amount of daylight in the room, and not least, the work had to be able to internet with the wall's window frames and the atrium's many materials and compound composition.

Maria Dubin grasps all these challenges in one stroke, and thereby demonstrates her sure sense and understanding of architecture and space: She performs the work on sile with ink thai is fade resistant and acoustically "invisible". She paints directly on the panels, and thereby makes the entire wall her canvas.

At all levels the work is created for the Ramboll house; in detail the ink exploits the structure itself and the acoustic panelling material is optimal. Working the composition motif by motif controls the entirety, and the interaction with space, light and architecture. The choice of shapes and motifs stands in contrast to the house's tight lines, while the monochrome colour scheme - black - again brings the work into dialogue with the context At the same time the work is evidence thai Ramboll is more than just an engineering company in the traditional sense.

Life in architecture

Maria Dubin's decoration of the south wall of the atrium at the Ramboll house is an example of a building integrat­ing art in the strict sense. Art and architecture converge, become inseparable and enrich each other in a pleasing and constant dialogue.

The work is not only created for the Ramboll house, but also in the Ramboll house. It has not only been an idea about a goal, a piece of work, but also about a process where the artist is constantly influenced and inspired by architecture, space and people, all while the work is created. The work is inextricably linked with the building's users and with the structure. With her idea Maria Dubin has achieved the fantastical, creating a direct relationship between the building's users and building itself.

Maria Dubin's "The Wall" has breathed life into the architecture.

The house was nominated for Aarhus Municipality's Award for Architecture 2011.
The original house won the same award in 1997