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Panum's new tower moves with the sun

Cooled with ocean water and copper shutters that shift in motion with the sun, the Maersk Building - the new science tower for the Panum complex - is set to open at the end of the year. Danish-language site Uniavisen was invited to take a look at the work in progress

The City of Copenhagen carefully guards its skyline.

Tight regulation on the height of buildings means that the old church spires and towers are still clearly visible and only a few new buildings above the height of 25 metres are approved unless they’re carefully considered and particularly aesthetic. In a sense, approval is in itself a reassurance that something will suit the skyline.

Danish-language news site Uniavisen was invited to see what uis colloquially called ‘the new Panum’ – officially the Maersk Building – which is still under construction. By the end of 2015, the 75 metre copper triangle will join the spires of the city. The three bearing pillars of the tower are finished and the concrete skeleton around it is set. Builders are currently mounting copper shutters that will match the surrounding red-brown brick houses. The building is in itself – quite fittingly – a feat of science.

”Drawing a tower is always exciting, but it was an especially interesting challenge to incorporate science,” says architect Mads Mandrup Hansen, standing on the building site and looking up at the building. “The shutters were developed with Art Andersen and automatically move with the sun, measuring when sunlight hits the outer glass. This is to avoid having the blinds down all day and to give the building a living character – like a great organism breathing in time with the motion of the sun.”

The shutters also prevent a mirrored glare from the sun and will make the building transparent, so even people across the lake will be able to see inside. With 13 laboratory and research floors, the building will mainly house scientists from the Faculty of Health and Medicinal Sciences. The interdisciplinary research centres, Center for Healthy Aging and the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research take up the remaining two floors.

Working together across floors

From the top floor you are treated to a 360 degree panoramic view of the city – from Nordhavn to Øresundsbroen to Bellahøj, the surrounding lakes like five postage stamps. This floor will be open to the public.

The tower is designed according to the modern research philosophy that good ideas rarely come to scientists in isolation, but rather in conversation with colleagues across departments. For this reason each floor has a ‘research square’ where scientists can meet and exchange ideas. The squares are connected vertically by a wooden spiral staircase.

”The vertical connection means that departments can spread out into new areas by utilising another floor,” Mads Mandrup Hansen explains. Flexibility is key in the research buildings of the future, he says. Flexibility and vertical interaction are also some of the criteria its future users have requested, according to department head Ole William Petersen, who has been a part of the group collecting input from the Faculty’s scientists.

Half the energy

One of the initial dreams of the architectural firm CF Møller, was 100 per cent sustainability. But they have had to compromise. A completely sustainable science building is somewhat of a paradox, as the Natural Sciences at the University of Copenhagen are the least environmentally friendly in their activities by a long shot. The Faculties of Health Sciences and Science make up 80 per cent of the university’s energy consumption.

In this new building, freezers with test materials will be kept cold with sea water. They would otherwise have used the same amount of electricity as 2-3 detached houses, and the green roofs of the building will absorb rainwater to prevent overloading the drains and sewers. Excess rainwater will be collected in tanks under the building and used for toilets and watering the surrounding park.

”Even using solar panels, it’s impossible to achieve this in research buildings that use 4 to 5 times as much energy as standard buildings. But we’ve halved the energy expenditure, and that’s a big step,” says Mads Mandrup Hansen.

View the different parts of the new Mærsk tower in our gallery here.

(Graphics: Claus Lunau, processed by Marie Aggerbeck, photo by Sofie Malmborg Hansen)

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