The desire to understand the natural world has always been at the heart of human innovation but has gained critical urgency as globalism accelerates the cycle between our impact on the world and the world’s impact on us. The new veterinary building opened in late 2021 and was conceived with this cycle in mind.
“It is the first campus of its kind,” says Karoline Igland, Head of Department at Henning Larsen’s Oslo office, who has played a major role in the project throughout the design and construction.
“No building anywhere in the world unites the same range of researchers and experts or has the same requirements in terms of safety and readiness. In addition to being a technically advanced and highly secure facility, it also needed to be an open arena for students and faculty. The result you see today has required ten years of collaboration, research, and innovation.”
The Veterinary Building at Campus Ås is in fact eight distinct but linked buildings, uniting previously disparate resources (some of which were in Oslo, 30km to the north of NMBU’s main campus.) Developed for Statsbygg by Multiconsult, Henning Larsen, Fabel Arkitekter, Link Landskap, and Erichsen + Horgen, the project is one of the largest and most complex construction projects ever undertaken in Norway.
How do you design world-class research and learning facility, where people and animals can co-exist in a potential infectious and hazardous environment? The Norwegian government has set out to become one of the leading nations in education and research in biosafety and the spread of infectious diseases, and the new Veterinary Building at the Norwegian University of Life Science is designed to fulfil this ambition.
The project is a bridging of gaps between great and small, hazardous and safe, clinical and human, isolated and connected. Despite the scale of the volume, which packs over 2,400 rooms into the building’s 63,000m2 of occupiable floorspace, the interiors at the Veterinary Building at Campus Ås feel almost cozy. The building rarely rises over four stories and is subdivided into eight wings which are themselves distributed between the building’s two primary programs: the Norwegian Veterinary Institute and the Norwegian University of Life Science.
“The breadth of facilities at Campus Ås is unique and comprehensive by design,” explains Karoline Igland. “Breakthroughs happen when we share knowledge and work together, and Campus Ås combines both the highly technical and social spaces that foster those kinds of collaborations.”
The environment in which you learn impacts your ability to take in and retain knowledge. In recent years, research has shown that informal and social spaces inside higher education facilities have a documented effect on students' learning and innovation abilities. The interlinked structures of the Veterinary Building at Campus Ås function with this in mind; between the stables, barns, aquariums, animal clinics, hydrotherapy pools, riding halls, BSL 3 laboratories, autopsy rooms, classrooms, offices, libraries, and canteens, social spaces make room for researchers, faculty, students, and visiting experts to meet and learn from each other – both formally and informally.
Things are no less complex in the research/clinical areas where, rather than facilitating casual meetings between people, different spaces must be carefully separated to avoid cross contamination. Even the animals must be carefully separated, with veterinary program divided between small and large animal clinics and subdivided further to separate healthy/injured animals from those that are ill.
Situated in an open landscape of soft hills, the long and low profile of Campus Ås allows it to fit in to its campus surroundings while still standing out. The façade is built up of over 300,000 hand-cut bricks, each coal fired to give them an individual sheen and texture. The reddish-brown hue of the bricks also match the surrounding campus structures, some of which date back to the campus’ foundation in 1859. Native plantings surround the bulk of the new building and can also be found up above, where sedum roofs support a prosperous insect habitat.
The new Veterinary Building at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences - Campus Ås opened on 1 September 2021 for 690 students and almost 855 employees. The project is done in collaboration with Multiconsult, FABEL Arkitekter, Link Landskap og Erichsen & Horgen.