When architecture creates community

Deborah Kelly Spillane
August 17, 2022

Danish architecture historically favours communal living – where housing complexes circle a shared courtyard and inhabitants benefit from shared facilities. But the award-winning BaseCamp complex brings co-housing to a new level.

Maybe it’s unsurprising that the idea of co-housing comes from Denmark. After all, it’s the country that developed hygge – a concept that doesn’t have a direct translation but can roughly be described as a sense of cosy contentment, often when sharing moments together with good friends. Co-housing in Denmark usually involves homes being constructed around a shared courtyard to encourage a sense of community and create lots of occasions for hygge between neighbours. Growing popular in Denmark in the 1970s, the notion behind co-housing was to balance privacy and communality, reaping the benefits of shared spaces and facilities.

Student accommodation is often based on co-housing principles, but very few take it the same level as BaseCamp just outside Copenhagen. At BaseCamp, this award-winning student accommodation complex is designed to create a sense of community while fitting in perfectly with its green surroundings.

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Where scenic surroundings and student life goes hand in hand

With its’ organic shape and varying heights, BaseCamp almost melts into the surrounding nature – which was also the main source of inspiration for the space. When designing the complex, Lars Gitz Architects set out to create a campus that truly respected the surrounding nature and used sustainable materials in its’ construction.

“Based on the vision of creating a building that intertwines with nature, the forms are inspired by nature. The construction is therefore neither straight nor symmetrical, it is organic and twisted in shape - just like nature is,” says Jon Clausen, architect MAA and partner at Lars Gitz Architects.

Rising to an altitude of 22 metres, a vast, green roof spans 8 000 m2. The roof is truly one of the highlights of the space, combining stunning views of the surrounding nature, attractive roof terraces, herb gardens to attract bird, bees and budding chefs and a long running path.

A diverse micro-society

BaseCamp is home to more than students, housing also senior citizens and visiting business people. The complex consists of 639 studios for students, 48 studios for seniors, 99 corporate apartments and a circular communal building in the centre. Although the complex is designed to create community and friendships, privacy is also respected and even the most basic rooms includes an ensuite bathroom and personal workspace as well as a double bed. The shared facilities include WIFI, kitchen, co-working spaces, gym, laundry, cinema, and chill-out zones. As the facilities have been designed with low power LED lighting and renewable energy sources in mind, the residents are encouraged to live in a climate smart way.

Students are the largest group at BaseCamp, but the corporate and senior residents share the same access to the building’s shared green spaces and facilities. This helps the students to develop unique skills to thrive when university ends, as they will have already have experienced living in a communal space with diverse inhabitants where social responsibility is expected. It’s also proving to be very popular with international students who find the micro-society to be the perfect introduction to understanding hygge and to starting a new life in Denmark.

Creating community with a conscience

BaseCamp has won several architecture awards in Denmark, including the prestigious Building Project of the Year – 2020, and has also been recognised for building with respect to the surrounding environment.

“BaseCamp achieved the prestigious Gold certificate from the international green building certification scheme, DGNB, which confirms a very high level of sustainability throughout every phase of the building. The choice of insulation contributes to the achievement of this high sustainability recognition for the building,” explains Nina Dencker Nielsen, Business Director for Denmark, ROCKWOOL Nordics.

As stone wool is derived from natural stone, it was the perfect match for the project’s requirements to use sustainable and recyclable materials. ROCKWOOL’s stone wool products were used throughout the complex, with many more details available in this case study.

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