Visit to UN City – 3XN/GXN

Yesterday we visited 3XN/GXN’s studio in an old gunboat shed in Holmen, Copenhagen. We learned about their combined research and architecture divisions and saw some of GXN’s material research first hand. To learn more about this research, see one of our previous posts.

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They gave us a rare, behind-the-scenes tour of the UN City building in Copenhagen’s north harbour, which integrates eleven United Nations agencies under one roof that were previously spread throughout Copenhagen. The various wings of the building are connected by a central atrium lit from above by a saw tooth roof with dozens of operable windows and skylights for daylighting and passive natural ventilation. The atrium is like the ‘heart’ of the complex, with a sculptural stair and bridges connecting all levels vertically and horizontally to encourage interaction. The design of the stair calls out to be traversed, reducing elevator use in the building.

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As the first LEED Platinum project in Denmark, the office building integrates a multitude of sustainable features over its 480,000 square foot area. We got access to the roof to view an almost endless array of over 1,400 solar panels supplying 297,000 kWh/year, which is most of the electricity needs for the building, and several rainwater drains collecting an average of 3,000,000 Litres of water to be used for flushing toilets. In the basement, we saw the huge tubes pumping cold water from the sea which is utilized in the building’s cooling system, almost eliminating the need for electricity to power the cooling cycle. To aid in cooling, automated solar shades move across office windows following the sun, triggered by sensors on the building face. These shades are opened or closed to either trap or reflect the sun’s heat, and open automatically at night for further cooling. The green roofs between each wing help to keep the adjacent areas cooled as well as provide a visual connection to green from multiple viewpoints in the space.

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 The project is exceptional in its ability to balance stringent programmatic, security and sustainability requirements, while showcasing innovative and inspiring design.

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