Aarhus Vand Headquarters / CEBRA
Text description provided by the architects. Human-sized lily pads, rainwater, and preservation of ecosystems. CEBRA’s design of Aarhus Vand headquarters celebrates natural water environments and the careful management of water. With all employees gathered under one roof, the staff and collaborators of Aarhus Vand can now drive global water innovation from one location.
The water tech and supply company Aarhus Vand (English: Aarhus Water) delivers water to the city of Aarhus. With a new headquarters, they wanted to gather their competencies in one building that supports the utility company’s many functions and municipal obligations after years of working from two separate locations that were not built for the purposes.
With the new headquarters, Aarhus Vand’s employees work from the same »Water House« that resembles freshwater environments throughout the design and facilitates state-of-the-art water tech machinery, creating a shared workplace and visionary narrative for the 230 employees working across the administration and service units.
Workspace with activity-based working and lily pads. The overall disposition of the building complex consists of three units: two service buildings for cleaning and wastewater, respectively, connected to the central administration building.
The main building consists of three floors, with the ground floor open for public access – including meeting rooms, an exhibition space, and a cantina for citizens and other firms. The remaining floors in the main building are staff-only office floors for customer support, finance, project managers, and other administrative employees. The floors dedicated to the administration unit are organized with open plan layouts, which support activity-based working (ABW) – a flexible environment where employees do not have a fixed workstation. Instead, they can choose between various informal meeting spaces, quiet rooms, workstations, and social lounge zones.
The administration building is around an active atrium space, which functions as the heart of the headquarters and connects the building vertically and with the surroundings. The atrium emerges as an organically shaped pond where circular platforms resembling water lilies rise on stems in shifting locations across the floors. Together with the outside landscape, materials, colors, and vegetation integrated into the building design, the platforms create an illusion of stepping in at the bottom of a clear lake, where light filters down between the water lilies’ pads and slender stems.
A Water House in a global context. Naturally, water forms a visible element throughout the Aarhus Vand headquarters, from the facade design resembling shimmering water surfaces to rainwater collection for toilet flushing, as well as the utilization of a resource-efficient drainage system. Showcasing water management technology is crucial as the headquarters also marks the beginning of a new, international water innovation district. The water cluster will be developed in the 70,000 m2 area surrounding Aarhus Vand. The ambition of Aarhus Municipality is to establish a community for Danish and international companies and startups, as well as public organizations and institutions, to accelerate research, innovation, and investments in water supply and technology.
The landscape supports natural water environments. The landscape project features a dynamic blend of green and blue elements, incorporating visible rainwater management within reservoirs, small streams, and plant beds. This integration coexists with biodiversity initiatives, including low-maintenance zones where indigenous plants can flourish naturally, fostering diverse flora and fauna. To support biodiversity, the project includes ditches with varying water levels and native plants, benefiting birds and insects year-round.
A network of footpaths has been established throughout the area to connect the building complex and arrival areas of the water cluster development while also taking advantage of the landscape’s recreational qualities, including access to the lake at the northern end of the building site. Additionally, a so-called »Newt Route« has been created to contribute to the preservation of local habitats for the Northern Crested Newts in the area. The specially designated watercourse runs from the ponds in the central landscape of the water cluster around the residence’s arrival area and parking islands, continuing north along the eastern boundary of the plot through the forest to the depression at the northern pond.