Novo Nordisk, Denmark

Novo Nordisk’s new headquarters in Bagsværd, Denmark, is the work of Henning Larsen Architects. Home to the company’s top management, along with around 1,100 administrative staff, the architecture consists of two office buildings sited in a verdant and inviting landscape, inspired by the Danish forests and landscapes. The largest of the two buildings, NN1, is six stories tall, is characterised by a cylindrical massing and comprises a central atrium, auditorium, offices, meeting rooms, quiet rooms, a library, classrooms, kitchenettes and canteen.

The complexity of the insulin molecule was a source of inspiration for the architecture, with the helix structures of the insulin molecule creatively informing the building’s rounded form, the atrium’s spiralling inner staircase and the dynamic white balconies. The architecture aims to create a lively space for people to meet, where synergies can be created between employees across different fields, and with guests from around the world.

The second building of the campus, NN2, is a wedge-shaped, four story edifice. It has an independent formal expression, yet still relates to the circular-formed neighbouring building. The wedge-shaped geometry of NN2 creates a coherent complex of lower polygonal buildings, which help stage a focal point – the circular main building, NN1.

From early on in the design development, it was Novo Nordisk’s desire to bring in a lighting designer and so the lighting design team at Grontmij were heavily involved from start to finish. Based on the architectural visions of Henning Larsen Architects and Novo Nordisk, while considering the diverse functional and aesthetic needs, Grontmij’s lighting design team created a lighting strategy that ensured an overall lighting concept and hierarchy for the integration of various lighting elements.

The lighting strategy has worked to accentuate the building’s iconic significance and identity, the movements and flows throughout the building, and its appearance and functionality during the daytime, evening, and night time hours. So strong was this strategy that Novo Nordisk was awarded the 2014 Danish Lighting Award. This was achieved through a varied lighting environment, where orientation and movement are controlled by vertical lighting, low placement of lighting elements, and variations in lighting levels and lighting characteristics (for example, variations in direct and diffuse lighting, as well as colour temperatures).

Anne Bay, Jury Chairman and Director of the Danish Lighting Center commented: “The lighting is integrated and enhances the architecture and the building’s functions without drawing attention to itself. This project exemplifies the excellent developments in contemporary lighting design, where it is not the light itself that is eye-catching, but the architectural totality and the atmospheres that are created by the light,”

The strategy developed by the team at Grontmij has ensured sustainable lighting by prioritising illumination levels, placement and control. The lighting strategy has been an important design parameter throughout the entire design and construction process, and the detailed planning followed the same lighting strategy as well. Moreover, it has been a crucial factor in interdisciplinary understandings and communications.

The design and implementation of the lighting was carried out in close collaboration between the client, lighting designers, architects, interior designers, contractors, and suppliers, and the project-specific solutions were tested in onsite mock-ups. Based on the lighting strategy, concepts were then developed for the atrium, auditorium, library, meeting rooms, canteen and kitchenettes.

The cylindrical form of the atrium is highlighted by the vertical lighting of the wall surfaces in the atrium’s circulation zones, whereby the shape of the atrium is heightened. The circular staircase has lighting integrated into its handrail, which illuminates the wood treads in a manner that reflects the light in a warm glowing colour. The handrail naturally provides a safeguard, but its built-in lighting also illuminates the horizontal tabletop surfaces in the break out spaces located along the balconies. This safeguarding element becomes a luminous parapet that flows and wraps its way around the glazed roof of the atrium, which is accentuated by pale blue light. The parapet illuminated in warm white light contrasts naturally with the pale blue.

At the bottom of the atrium, smaller light-zones are created within the greater space with the help of floor lamps, table lamps and directed light from pole-mounted luminaires. These lighting elements create a more intimate ambiance and smaller momentary spaces that can be used for short meetings and briefer stays. The design also offers variations in light zones and lighting atmospheres, which simultaneously support the functional and aesthetic needs of the people using the building.

Throughout the entire design process the focus remained on integrating the luminaires into the architecture and avoiding glare so that light is primarily visible when it hits the various surfaces. The lighting system has been implemented using energy efficient LED light sources.

Furthermore, the lighting system has used luminaires that shield the light sources in order to avoid visual discomforts of glare to the greatest extent possible and the luminaires’ light distribution, colour temperatures and colour renderings have been selected based on the functional needs. For example, in the canteen, library, and meeting rooms, spots with a colour temperature of 3,000K, a Ra-value of +90 and a narrow beam light distribution have been utilised. This was done in order to create direct light that gives high-quality colour rendition on the surfaces of the tables in these areas. The direct light and the warm colour temperature support daily functions, as well as supporting direct communications between the people using the building.

The direct light has been combined with linear recessed luminaires and wide-beam spots (with a colour temperature of 4,000K and a Ra-value of +80) for the wall lighting and general lighting; this helps frame the various spaces and transitional areas. The combination of diffuse and direct light supports visual comfort, as well as one’s experiences of the spaces, forms and textures.

The second building of the Novo Nordisk Campus, NN2, offers a spectacular sculptural atrium, offices, meeting rooms, a canteen, and a diversity of ancillary spaces. Similar to NN1, this building’s focal point is its atrium, which visually and physically connects the four stories and manifold functions. The atrium has been designed with 50 skylight baffles that poetically disperse daylight into the space and the building’s core.

The design and direction of the skylight baffles, influence the play of light and shadow taking place in the building throughout the day and across the year. Daylighting’s dynamic behaviour juxtaposed with the design of the electric lighting’s intensity, direction, and colour temperature help to create the appearance of changing ‘ornamentation’ in the skylight baffles, as well as in the atrium and its adjacent spaces.

On the occasions when daylight is insufficient – such as evening hours and the winter months – the electric lighting comes to aid. The concept of the electric lighting involved creating lighting that partly supports the daytime lighting during periods of limited natural light, and partly contributes to the general electric lighting. Likewise, the electric lighting has been designed to accentuate the tectonics of the skylight and to create a welcoming and exciting atmosphere in the atrium as a whole. The electric lighting has been planned using ten different lighting scenarios; each programmed with a specific dynamic lighting configuration. The different colour shades shift in a slow tempo, characterised by a soft and gradual transition from one shade to another. Most of the scenes work with white light nuances, which span a spectrum from bluish light to neutral white light, and finally to warm light in the form of dark golden hues. The scenes are programmed to align with the daytime lighting’s diurnal and seasonal rhythms, as well as to demarcate special holidays.