Danish National Rail Administration

- privatising demands new work-structure
Banestyrelsen, Copenhagen, Denmark. Architect: Hvidt & Molgaard. Photo: Malin Hultmark.
The Danish National Rail Administration (Banestyrelsen) gathered all its central administration in one building when they moved to a building in the Northern Harbour of Copenhagen. The newly renovated building reflects the changing process going on in “Banestyrelsen”. The building comprises mainly open-plan offices, and some of the work places are flexible. This is supposed to encourage co-operation in new ways and create a learning environment. Due to the open-plan offices, creating a quiet environment was very important.

 

Short facts
Location: Banestyrelsen (Danish National Rail Administration), Copenhagen, Denmark
Construction years: 2000-2001
Architect: Viktor Nybølle (1904), Hvidt & Mølgaard A/S, through Finn Jeppesen (renovation 2001)
Acoustic consultant: NIRAS, through Mikkel Bramsen

 

A building with history

Banestyrelsen, Copenhagen, Denmark. Architect: Hvidt & Molgaard. Photo: Malin Hultmark
The building, located in the northern harbour of Copenhagen, was built for Nordisk Fjer, a feather company that imported feathers from Asia and Russia to make down quilts and pillows. The first part of the building was ready in 1904.
The building has a significant exterior and has become a well-known landmark in the harbour. It is characterised by its vertical window lines. Ideally suited to the activities of the new tenant, the building is located just beside the railway.
In 2000-2001, the building was renovated according to "Banestyrelsen's" expectations. The façades and shape of the building were well preserved by the renovation process, as the maintenance of this building is one part of Copenhagen Council's development plan for the Northern harbour.

Change in working practices

Banestyrelsen, Copenhagen, Denmark. Architect: Hvidt & Molgaard. Photo: Malin Hultmark."Banestyrelsen" runs, administers and co-ordinates rail traffic in Denmark. In recent years a process of change has been under way. The organisational structure has gradually developed from government institution to private company. Privatisation demands a new, more competitive structure, with target-oriented work processes.
At the beginning of this project the client expressed a preference for a modern building that suited their new work concept. Together with the architect, a program of demands was defined. As a result of this process, the architect could design the new interior for 450 people under one roof. 

 

Different rooms for different tasks

Banestyrelsen, Copenhagen, Denmark. Architect: Hvidt & Molgaard. Photo: Malin Hultmark.
The building comprises a combination of open-plan offices, cellular offices, meeting rooms, project rooms and flexible workstations. To this end, some of the workplaces are completely flexible. Due to a lot of travel, meetings, project work and work at home, some people in the staff have no use for a fixed workplace. 
Visitors and staff from other sites can also use one of the rooms with "touch down" work stations provided with stationary computers. Some of these rooms are also used for project work.
Previously, the organisation was accommodated in traditional cellular offices. In the new premises most of the departments have open-plan offices, with premises that can be used in many ways. The idea is to create an environment where it is easy to exchange knowledge and work in teams. Anyone should easily see what is going on in the building, and get quickly updated on new projects.

 

Different zones and usage modes

Banestyrelsen, Copenhagen, Denmark. Architect: Hvidt & Molgaard. Photo: Malin HultmarkMost employees have a fixed workplace in one of the open-plan offices. Meetings between staff are one of the main activities. They can take place in one of the formal meeting rooms, at a lounge, in the kitchen or just at someone's desk. The largest meeting rooms are one the ground floor. The biggest one has room for 175 people. It can also be divided into smaller sections. On the entrance floor there is also the reception, library, printing office and concierge's office.

The building is naturally divided into three sections. Both A and C contain open-plan office space around atriums. Between them, part B is characterised by more enclosed rooms, such as quiet rooms, meeting rooms, "touch-down stations" and project rooms. In this section you will also find the IT department. On the top floor is a canteen where you enjoy a wonderful view while eating lunch. This floor has glass walls facing the atrium to prevent noise from reaching the offices below.
Banestyrelsen, Copenhagen, Denmark. Architect: Hvidt & Molgaard. Illustration: Malin Hultmark.
Banestyrelsen, Copenhagen, Denmark. Architect: Hvidt & Molgaard. Photo: Malin HultmarkIn the open-plan offices there are small wooden partitions that divide the office into smaller sections. These partitions contain kitchens and technical equipment such as photocopiers and fax machines. This prevents noise  created by these activities from reaching the office space.

 

Modern activities in an old building

Banestyrelsen, Copenhagen, Denmark. Architect: Hvidt & Molgaard. Photo: Malin Hultmark.One important element of the architect's work has been to maintain the original shape of the building, the voluminous space on the inside and the special window lines. When changing the former plant into offices, two new atriums were opened in the middle of the building and one storey was added.

Also, the architect wanted to make a distinction between the old and the new parts. It should be easy to see which details have been added in the renovation and which are original. It was important to show the construction and the industrial background of the building clearly, reason why concrete joists have been left uncovered.
 
Light, transparent materials
One challenge was to bring light into the building, which is almost 29 metres deep. The two atriums were created in the innermost part of the building. As well as letting in light, they also act as open staircases. From the stairs you have a view over the floors.
This creates an open environment where you can see large parts of the offices. You can look through the office and see what is going on in other departments.
Light, transparent materials are used extensively. To add light to the building, the walls are white and the floor is made of light-coloured ash wood.
 
High demands on the sound environment
Banestyrelsen, Copenhagen, Denmark. Architect: Hvidt & Molgaard. Photo: Malin Hultmark.The openness provides a light environment, but it also creates acoustical challenges.
The floors are open to the atrium, and the sound can spread freely inside the building. Much has been done to prevent disruptive noise as far as possible.
The most important task in open-plan offices is to dampen the sound as much as possible. The wooden parquet is glued with special elastic glue, to make the sounds of footsteps softer.
The premises have a sound absorbing ceiling to dampen noise, and keep the reverberation time short. Absorbents are also positioned by the walls of the atrium.
As the sound is travelling from far away, the angle between the source of the sound and the ceiling is small in large premises like open-plan office space. This, combined with the high demands on absorption, makes it difficult to use hard absorbents in the ceiling such as perforated plaster or metal. In this building, all of the ceiling area between the concrete joists is covered by soft, sound absorbing tiles.
Finally, furniture and people help to diffuse and absorb sound.
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