A Visionary Learning Environment for Natural Science

The food chain of accomplished scientists starts at an early stage, which means that Natural Science needs to be made more accessible to Denmark’s primary/lower-secondary schools and high schools.

Recognising this fact, the Novo Nordisk Foundation has initiated a large-scale national plan to increase the interest in scientific subjects among children and young people. The name of the initiative is LIFE.

LIFE is a term, which not only encapsulates the academic focus of the initiative (living nature, natural science, and its application) but is also made up of the initial letters of the ambition: Learning, Inspiration, Fascination, and Engagement.

LIFE will be supported by three platforms, which include mobile laboratories established in specially constructed trucks, which will drive out to the country’s schools, enabling pupils to conduct a variety of scientific experiments. There will also be a digital platform with teaching packages accessible to all schoolchildren and teachers in the country. The third platform will be an educational centre in Lyngby, which houses the facilities for the development of educational material and teaching packages. The building will also be equipped with teaching laboratories and serve as a visitor centre for school classes.

It will furnish Denmark’s teachers with brand new resources. Work will involve game-based, digital solutions, which can reach many users, without them needing to be physically present in the LIFE building. The technology element is generally very expensive for primary/lower-secondary schools, and for teachers, the knowledge is usually rather inaccessible. Given their busy working days, the LIFE educational material will be a gift to teachers at every level.

The educational material will provide the young people with concrete issues and ‘nuts’ that actual scientists are attempting to ‘crack’. This will result in motivation and interest in Natural Science here and now, and may, in the case of older pupils, pave the way for a qualified choice of career.

The ambition is to reach all primary/lower-secondary and high-school pupils in Denmark’, Per Falholt, Director, LIFE.

LIFE designed by Vilhelm Lauritzen Architects
The Novo Nordisk Foundation
GHB Landskabsarkitekter, COWI
Dyrehavens Jorder, DK-2800 Kongens Lyngby
4,000 m²
Completed in 2021

In collaboration with GHB Landskabsarkitekter and COWI as the turnkey contractor, Vilhelm Lauritzen Architects is in the process of developing and designing the LIFE learning centre in Lyngby.

The Novo Nordisk Foundation is allocating a period of 10+ years, in which a three-step plan of learning initiatives will be specially built: mobile laboratories and digital learning packages to be sent all over the country. The building in Lyngby will be the headquarters of the LIFE organisation. The main goal is for the building to serve as a powerhouse for LIFE’s nationwide activities and to serve as an epicentre for the development of science subjects in schools. The common denominator of the initiatives is the implementation of various scientific experiments.

The building in Lyngby will be furnished with teaching laboratories and serve as a visitor centre for school classes. The idea of the classrooms and laboratories is to support practical, hands-on courses, which can embrace and involve pupils at various stages of development and academic levels. 

LIFE designed by Vilhelm Lauritzen Architects

The design strategy is based on the ‘STEM’ concepts (Science / Technology / Engineering / Mathematics) and the façade enclosure is inspired by DNA strands, Fibonacci structures and other mathematical patterns, which also underpins the desire for a high level of integration between the building and the surrounding countryside.

There is a great openness and visibility between the building’s functions, overlaps, and general application. Overall, the LIFE building is divided into function-related areas: Teaching and Laboratories; Development & Offices; Communal Areas & Auditorium; and Operations and Technical.

The building’s technical structure and services will be directly incorporated into technically oriented educational activities: for example, by monitoring the energy consumption of the building; by making the technical installations visible; and by studying the way the structural elements are composed.

LIFE designed by Vilhelm Lauritzen Architects

The cornerstone of the LIFE building is the auditorium. The auditorium will have a more independent appearance and can be shut off and used independently of the surrounding environment. The auditorium will be a technological counterpart to the surrounding natural area. The focus of the auditorium will involve working dynamically with the building and playing with various technologies, including projections on the surfaces of the walls both inside and out.

In terms of experience, visitors will move from the surrounding natural landscape and gradually proceed through various architectural layers, with the technological focus gradually intensifying.

The connection between nature and technology will enhance the experience of the two by means of sensuous interaction.

With its staggered, yet regimented façade columns in light-coloured wood, the building will look like a temple in the sweeping landscape. On one side of the buildings, there will be learning gardens, and the facility will abut the publicly accessible experience path, which will connect LIFE with the neighbouring area and Novozymes. The floor of the building will follow the gentle slope of the landscape. At the entrance, the solid timber columns will have the effect of a veil: a soft flap opening and revealing the building to visitors. Outdoors there will be paved zones on the land, tempering the transition between the building and the landscape.

The design of the building was the result of a comprehensive process involving users and experts. Selected science teachers have contributed to a ping-pong process in relation to the didactic tools, and specialists have customised the AV technology for the building. The Novo Nordisk Foundation’s contribution to the design lies in its years of knowledge about Natural Science.

LIFE designed by Vilhelm Lauritzen Architects

The learning centre will be established on Dyrehavegårds Jorder, east of the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), the Elsinore motorway, and Novozymes. The complex will comprise 4,000m2 of built space.

The ideas behind LIFE will be backed up by the educational material, which is being funded to the tune of DKK 18 million, targeting a new strategy for Natural Sciences in the period from 2018 to 2024. Part of the money will go towards creating what the Education Minister of Denmark refers to as “Super Science Teachers”, all of who will hold post-graduate degrees.

LIFE designed by Vilhelm Lauritzen Architects
LIFE designed by Vilhelm Lauritzen Architects