Underdogs Win Aarhus Competition

Headlines, 17. March 2017
By: John Hill

Image: Vargo Nielsen Palle and ADEPT

The newly established practice Vargo Nielsen Palle, in collaboration with ADEPT and Rolvung og Brøndsted Arkitekter, has bested BIG, SANAA and Lacaton & Vassal in the restricted international competition for the new school of architecture in Aarhus, Denmark.

The format of the two-stage competition was unique, in that its first phase was a design competition open to young architects, after which three winners went against three pre-qualified architecture firms in the second stage. The trio of Brian Vargo, Jonas Snedevind Nielsen and Mathias Palle was one of these three "young talents" that competed against BIG, SANAA, and Lacaton & Vassal.

Image: Vargo Nielsen Palle and ADEPT

Although the jury* in the two-stage competition could have selected three projects for further negotiations, they unanimously selected the Vargo Nielsen Palle scheme. Torben Nielsen, head of the Aarhus School of Architecture, described the winner in a statement as "a factory for architectural experimentation that will set the stage for cooperation with the city, the profession and our neighbours – just as we wanted."

Image: Vargo Nielsen Palle and ADEPT

The school describes their existing facilities in the old merchant's house at Nørreport as "ou-dated" and "premises which have been [their] 'temporary' home ... for more than 50 years."

Image: Vargo Nielsen Palle and ADEPT

ADEPT describes the design in a statement:

The building is organized as a city within a building: Rich in diversity but within a simple and rough frame. A variety of functions can be used by the entire city, and the larger open spaces throughout the building allow students and the public to interact in both planned and unplanned activities. The mixture between the school and the city is one of the things that will really give life to the school and the local area.

Image: Vargo Nielsen Palle and ADEPT

The winning project is expected to be completed in 2020, following detailed dialogues with the school's students and staff, development of the design, and the selection of the design-build contractor.

Vargo Nielsen Palle

*The members of the jury:

  • Signe Primdal Lyndrup, Chairman of The Jury and Vice President of The Danish Building & Property Agency
  • Martin Lose, Head of Office at The Danish Building & Property Agency
  • Ingelise Bogason, Chairman of the Board of Aarhus School of Architecture
  • Torben Nielsen, Rector of Aarhus School of Architecture
  • Lars Autrup, Project Director at Realdania
  • Architects Jens Thomas Arnfred and Reiulf Ramstad (Norway) and engineer Frank Jensen.