Claus Pryds Architects . photos: © Claus Pryds
The Livsrum Herning design by Claus Pryds Architects won the competition for a new cancer centre near the Regional Hospital of Herning in Denmark. The project was carried out in collaboration with K.G. Hansen and Sons, the Ingeniør’ne and Michael Poulsen.
Our aim has been to create a building that makes a clear architectural statement to mark the special character of the Livsrum and to provide a sober setting for the activities that take place there. To come here should feel like visiting a good neighbour – like an escape from the tedium of everyday life with people you can talk to about everything and nothing. Through its materials, its scale and its expression, the building conveys solidity, tranquillity and harmony as well as a sense of welcoming comfort.
In a balancing act between the public and the private sphere, the architecture of the Livsrum must meet two essential requirements: It must simultaneously provide a public face for the cancer counselling centre and a safe setting for the cancer patients. The original detached house has a classic shape that most of us associate with a home. In transforming it from a living space into an information centre for cancer patients, we decided to let the original house take centre stage. From the northern façade of the house, the building is extended like a telescope in three defined volumes that break down the scale and create a diverse façade along the residential street. Like modern variations of the classic shape, the new building structures contribute their varying heights and roof pitches invoking the houses surrounding the centre.
As to scale, breaking up the building into differentiated volumes creates a certain intimacy, an immediate relationship between body and house that makes the building seem familiar and accessible.
The extension follows the street in place of the old garden wall. Its elongated shape creates a clear barrier between street space and garden space emphasising the importance of having a safe, private haven shielded from the surrounding world. This is a basic but essential theme in human psychology: a well-structured environment fosters calm and energy since people do not need to spend their strength on orienting themselves or staying alert. By keeping the framing of the garden, the existing house garden is emphasised as a space in itself. All façades facing the garden have been opened to blur the line between indoors and outdoors even further, creating a green extension of the indoor spaces.
The original house is very feminine in its expression and detailing but this has been balanced by the rougher, more textural expression of the new extension. The indoor walls of the extension are lined with birch plywood sheets that lend a warm materiality to the rooms. In the rooms where the ceiling rises to double height, wood mouldings carry on this materiality and ensure good acoustics. The contrasting raw concrete surface of the floor expresses robustness and ties together the different spatialities. Concrete and plywood sheets are hardly a common choice for interior surfaces anywhere and are therefore associated with neither private nor institutional interior design. As such, they convey the sense of a “third” space unburdened by conventional associations while providing a sense of intimacy and variation thanks to their natural characteristics and surfaces.
The simple, raw expression of the materials is softened by extensive use of textiles for the furniture. These textiles ensure a pleasant acoustic climate and add their colours to the palette of the garden and building materials. Niches and recesses are scattered throughout the house serving as furniture as well as sub-rooms. Here, patients and visitors can rest and talk with a greater sense of intimacy. Such niches fold the interior space of a room and make gradations from openness to closeness within it.