In 2001 architects and founding partners Mikkel Frost, Carsten Primdahl and Kolja Nielsen founded the Danish architecture office CEBRA, joined by Mikkel Hallundbæk Schlesinger in 2017.
Headquartered in Aarhus, Denmark and Abu Dhabi UAE, the interdisciplinary team’s mission is to develop an architecture that functions based on empathy, promotes dialogue, and makes innovative use of technology.
“CEBRA work is the alchemy of human empathy and architectural expression. It stems from the notion that the ordinary is the means of the extraordinary – and solving a program is merely a part of creating a solution.”
Here are 15 Projects by CEBRA Architecture:
1. Danish Crown Headquarters
For the Danish food manufacturer Danish Crown, the CEBRA Architecture office planned an extension to the existing administration building. The complex, built on a 12-hectare site in Randers, Denmark, contains a refined interpretation of a commercial use building to maximise work conditions and employee comfort.
The creation of one central meeting point and the combination of flexible floor plans with visual relations works with the concept of Danish villages—The thematic division into three parts gives each employee a sense of belonging to their complex. Simultaneously, the flowing floor plan creates a central pulsating multi-storey space that invites people to linger and engage in communicative exchange.
The design aims to connect the inside with the outside and different levels within the building in the horizontal and vertical. The chosen vernacular architecture seen in the choice of brick material, the hipped roof design, and the landscape architecture by implementing community gardens—is mixed with contemporary elements such as fanning out the building cubature.
2. Lego Parking
For the new Lego Campus, a multi-storey car park was built in the centre of Billund in Denmark, representing the company’s values and identity to the outside world. Taking a playful approach, the architects in charge of the design of the façade, based their proposal on the Lego road plates already designed in 1977. The result was an upscaled Lego road map.
Technically, the façade design worked similarly to the original inspiration by attaching façade panels of the same type in different variations to the exterior of the parking complex combined with the mathematical graphic phenomenon of Truchet Tiling. These aluminium façade panels hide a different association with Lego in detail.
The perforation alludes to the construction principle of the LEGO brick. Thus, the translucency brings both climatic and lighting advantages and, as a final gadget, even functions as a counterpart for Lego bricks.
3. NCC Office
The architects upgraded the L-shaped floor plan of the already existing NCC office building with an office landscape. Flexibility, an excellent working atmosphere, light and climate conditions to generate an optimal well-being feeling were the main focus. Especially concerning flexible working possibilities in the pandemic context, this design presents itself as a visionary proposal.
The large open, communicative space, a neutrally coloured meeting street correlates to the coloured boxes placed for privacy during meetings or quiet working time. The boxes open to two sides to ensure light incidence and visual relations and the nonbearing walls’ integrated slope refers to the company logo. This important subliminal detail promises identification with the workplace.
4. Al Musallah
The design includes a place of worship and a landscape master plan for Abu Dhabi city’s cultural heart. The Al Musallah, the place of worship, is placed in the north-east of the site. Furthermore, it defines a conglomeration of interconnected buildings, which gain spiritual connotation with the additional water feature’s help.
This sequence of rooms, which can be perceived by both sexes separately but with a similar linear structure, plays specifically with the visitor’s perception of the changing soundscape of the city. By alternating the path and council before arriving at the ablution rooms to enter the prayer rooms, facing the Qibla direction, the visitor arrives prepared and ready.
Both from the external appearance and the architecture’s internal experience, the architects address rituals and create a spiritual haven of peace.
In Hellerup, Denmark, the architecture firm was concerned with the renovation and expansion of the existing science centre, the Experimentarium. Although a horizontal extension of the site was out of the renovation question, the architects succeeded in doubling the exhibition space by extending and converting the core and adding storeys.
Another goal was to give the cultural centre a new and extroverted image. The achieved effect came about on the inside by reorganising the uses and breaking up the rigid ground plan into multiple storeys with a gigantic, sculptural staircase.
The creation and stacking of new uses are visible on the outside. This breaking up of the building volume into clusters gives the building lightness and integrates better with its surroundings.
With this proposal, CEBRA Architecture won the competition tendered by the Kolding Municipality. The visitor centre on Skamlingsbanken Hill in southern Denmark represents the historically anchored need to define the cultural meeting place as a tangible space and dedicate it to the public.
Because of the exceptional natural environment, the architecture recedes in appearance and assimilates with it. It appears only selectively—according to the required use. At the visitor centre site, space seemingly arches out of the hilly landscape and appears naturally placed.
7. UTSC Instructional Centre
The intention of an extension of the Scarborough Campus of the University of Toronto with a learning building was to create a communicative, interdisciplinary exchange from students to teachers to fellow students.
Through the architecture of the learning landscape, the floor plan strives for an interweaving of classrooms; thus, the building’s experience occurs playfully. Each classroom is individually designed as an independent learning environment and thus succeeds in meeting various learning needs.
The duality of inside vs. outside on the ground creates this fusion of campus with its surroundings. The result is combining the classroom with the landscape and expanding it in an activity-oriented way.
8. Aaby School
The planned school extension rooms aim to complement each other thematically and provide the community with a new meeting place. The winning design was convincing because of the small-scale use, which, combined with building blocks, results in an aesthetically pleasing architecture and “child’s play”.
In an exciting interplay between old and new, we experience a reinterpretation of historic building traditions. Simultaneously, a holistic image emerges, as the perforated added boxes create a reference to the existing buildings and mix old with new, partially changed uses.
The new school building in the city of Aabybro consists of two-part building structures displaced from each other in their external appearance and function as counterparts of the respective building complex, thus creating a site unit.
Although positioned offset to each other, vernacularly chosen, yet contemporarily interpreted, prominent roofs help to create unity and at the same time blend into the surroundings. The two bodies’ threshold space, which automatically belongs to the unity, is complemented by landscaped outdoor space.
The two H-shaped parts of the building combine two linear building parts with an atrium cross beam. This atrium is indoor and outdoor, promoting new learning methods by incorporating the outdoor space.
Due to the significant location of the site, the architects opted for a somewhat unusual design approach. By implementing a new street, the conventional block is interrupted, and thus additional communal space is created.
The aim was to combine the diversity of the area’s architecture with the small-scale building styles. This conglomerate refers to the surrounding, adding to them and reinterpreting simultaneously. As in many of the office’s projects, accents are set and urban spaces defined through the targeted use of colour.
In combination with innovative urban drainage systems, an exciting interplay of tradition and innovation is created here, both in the interior and in open spaces.
11. The Iceberg
The newly developed building quarter in Aarhus East houses 208 flats and serves to vitalise the former harbour. After completion, both a neighbourhood community and workplaces are to be created.
The L-shaped juxtaposition of the building volumes is broken up and deformed due to the lighting conditions of the individual flats and the view of the bay. This interplay favours a natural appearance as icebergs with their irregular yet harmonious topography.
To create a neighbourhood rather than a block of flats, various ownership and flat typologies are created in the various “icebergs”: The variety ranges from penthouse flats to small flats and multi-storey maisonettes.
The summer house Treldehuset near Vejle Fjord is a more traditional design, seemingly unconventional for the office, but no less well-thought-out for that. The natural surroundings have had a strong influence on the design’s appearance, which blends in harmoniously with the surroundings through the choice of materials and its decency.
The traditional gable house cubature is partially hollowed out, thus achieving high-quality living space and private zoned outdoor space. The result is “a kind of double house—a house inside a bigger house”. This allows for floor-to-ceiling windows onto the covered terrace and maximum privacy at the same time. The duality of the shell to the actual building core is supported in the choice of materials.
Through its architecture, the office increasingly strives to create spaces that until now have remained undefined. In this project, they attempt to generate a social meeting place that forms communities independent of social affiliations.
Fundamental cultural differences usually lose their meaning in the sporting competition: this “transit zone” is translated into the language of architecture as a socially mixed, diverse sports landscape. The igloo-hall concept invented by CEBRA combines innovative, sustainable technology with diverse user-adapted topography and participatory design.
14. Igloo Greve
In this next project, the Iglo-Hall Concept just mentioned will be explained in more detail. It is basically about reforming Denmark’s sports culture: Society usually plays sports in heated rooms during the winter. In order to take a step towards sustainability, aesthetically pleasing yet energetically unheated sports facilities are proposed.
By reducing the surface area, which releases energy, the Iglooform allows the space to be naturally warmed by sunlight. The interior, which is partly fixed and partly variable, creates an arena for flexible use.
15. Lethal Løgstør
With the construction of the sports hall in the town of Løgstør in northern Denmark, CEBRA Architecture demonstrates its innovative approach to architecture. Standardised prefabrication of construction elements is usually associated with industrial buildings and warehouses.
Following the same principle, they attempt to generate sustainable, low-cost architecture by upgrading the already familiar “Meccano model construction system”, developing it further and applying it in a “use-removed” way. The sports hall was built on this principle, incorporating different floor coverings under its unifying roof, allowing for flexible sports activities.
Despite the open building typology, “multifunctional space-defining wooden furniture” allows for night-time closure and security.
“Architecture is slow and a business of long lasting values. We build our work on top of a cultural history and in a horizon of futures to come. Architecture is inextricably linked with significant social, environmental and economic implications – and is a serious endeavor, serious fun.”