BIG Designs New Centre for Neuroscience & Psychiatric

The first of its kind in the world, a new Neuroscience Centre designed by BIG will bring together psychiatry and neuroscience under one roof to combine groundbreaking science and treatment of physical and mental brain diseases, spinal cord and nervous systems. BIG’s 20 000 m2 design for Aarhus University Hospital mimics the gyrification of the human brain to utilise the limited site area most efficiently while creating synergies between the different disciplines within the hospital.

Established in 2009, The Danish Neuroscience Centre (DNC) has become a world-class research and treatment facility for understanding and treating the most complex, efficient and adaptive organ in our body – the brain. A new building for DNC, set to open in 2026, will connect directly with the existing campus of Aarhus University Hospital and seeks to intensify the hospital’s unique approach combining healthcare, education and scientific research to collaborate and inspire each other. A major financial declaration of intent by The Salling Foundations allows the project to move forward.

Jens Christian Hedemann Sørensen, Professor of neurosurgery and chairman of DNC said:

“Through the fantastic support from The Salling Foundations and collaboration with BIG, we are one step closer to realising the new Danish Neuroscience Centre to create an optimal framework for further advancing the field of neuroscience and thereby creating new treatments for our patients with diseases of the brain, spinal cord and nerves. The building must – like the brain – function as a space for knowledge sharing that creates new connections, contexts and common understandings. We want to disrupt the way of thinking of the physical and mental brain diseases as isolated quantities. The location between AUH and AUH Psychiatry and BIG’s design of the building promotes and cements this approach. There will be a connection to the outside world through public access to experience centres, exhibitions, and lectures in our incredible brain house. It will be a unique and iconic building that I look forward to following every step of the way”

BIG’s proposal for the six-story neuroscience centre combines the efficiency of a double loaded corridor building with the generosity and openness of a classic atrium typology. By folding the floor plan around an atrium, similar to the characteristic folds in the cerebral cortex, the design not only allows each floor to reach the necessary square footage within a limited area, it also creates a number of connections and smaller clusters with intimate workspaces, courtyards and views between each floor within the hospital.

Bjarke Ingels, Founding Partner, BIG said:

“The brain is the most complex organ in the human body. Our design for the new Danish Neuroscience Centre in Aarhus, replicates the most essential feature of the brain – the gyrification – to create more connections and space within limited confines. The building folds bring light, lots of new pathways and green pockets into the hospital making nature and biodiversity part of the hospital’s research and the healing journey of its patients.”

Patients and guests access the building through a generous reception area, into the large open atrium at the centre of the building which contains an experience centre – an interactive public exhibition and presentation area where the visitors can learn about the hospital’s latest research and findings. The visitors can head directly to one of the clinics upstairs or enjoy the café and a public green courtyard at ground level.

Each department from neurology to nuclear medicine, headache clinic and psychiatry has its own distinct space and program functions. To avoid separation and fragmentation between the disciplines, BIG proposes to organise them by the functions they have in common. This encourages crossbreeding between the different research groups that can help fuel inspiration, innovation and creativity, and future proof the spaces for growth, reduction or replacement.

David Zahle, Partner, BIG said:

“Danish Neuroscience Centre seeks to bridge the research and treatment of physical and psychological brain conditions and de-stigmatise psychological disorders. Historically, hospitals have divided knowledge and expertise into different specialties and departments. DNC seeks to gather all current and future knowledge under one roof to create synergies between different expertise areas and a more holistic approach to understanding and curing brain disorders.”

Natural materials throughout the building such as wood and brick, used in other buildings at the campus will bring positive health benefits and a comforting atmosphere to the patients and guests. The red concrete of the exterior will blend well with the existing brick buildings and bring warmth to the spaces, contrasting the usual clinical and sanitised white environment of hospitals.

All office areas in the building are planned to be naturally ventilated and every floor has access to an outdoor terrace. A stretched metal window mesh prevents all workspaces from being affected by glare or direct sunlight, filtering the light to provide each office, laboratory or examination room with pleasant natural illumination. The project aims for a DGBN Gold sustainability certification for hospitals in Denmark.