Maersk Tower - Insights - Designing Laboratories - C.F. Møller. Photo: Adam Mørk
The Technical Faculty - Insights - Designing Laboratories - C.F. Møller. Photo: Torben Eskerod

Insights - Designing Laboratories

World class research that helps change the world while improving life for people and planet, demands world-class facilities. Innovative design enables new ways of releasing creative potential, through architecture which fosters closer connections and creativity between colleagues, scientists, and society.
Biomedicum - Insights - Designing Laboratories - C.F. Møller. Photo: Mark Hadden

C.F. Møller Architects aim to create projects where science buildings become mixing chambers capable of creating a social and interdisciplinary environment, where great minds can exchange just as many ideas over a cup of coffee as across the test tubes in a lab. 

The overall planning defines a new way of bringing scientists together in stimulating, transparent architecture, where the surrounding buildings and context create opportunities to turn each site into a buzzing campus. One which is capable of showcasing and expressing the vision of science, while fostering innovation, attracting talent and making its inhabitants proud.


One would expect that the most important part of the research environment is being in the laboratories, in front of the flask or in front of the computer. But the fact is that you get your best ideas when having a cup of coffee out on the research plaza, or when you run into a colleague from one of the other levels, says Ole William Petersen, Professor of Tissue Morphology and Differentiation, DSc., at the University of Copenhagen and one of the users of the Maersk Tower.


C.F. Møller Architects’ experience in designing labs and research complexes which set new standards, dates back to the beginning of their work with architecture. The core of the design approach is based on putting people and wellbeing at the centre. This contribution to building up Scandinavian welfare societies has been the backbone of C.F. Møller Architects’ work from the very beginning, with Aarhus University in 1924 as the first major project, one which still ranks as one of the best universities in the world. Almost a century of building research facilities, has given knowledge, experience and understanding of what is important to accomplish complex, technical, ambitions in the fields of healthcare, education, and culture.

Maersk Tower  - Insights - Designing Laboratories - C.F. Møller. Photo: Adam Mørk

Knowledge sharing 

By carefully considering the layout of a building, it is possible to ensure the establishment of informal meeting spaces which create opportunities for knowledge sharing across different competencies and departments.


Through the architectural concepts, we ensure that, in addition to attractive research facilities, the social aspects of the workplace are reinforced. This is done by creating attractive environments with room for socialising with colleagues, strengthening the interaction between the individual researchers and creating enhanced conditions that are measurable in relation to efficiency at work, says Klavs Hyttel.


An example of these architectural concepts is seen at the Maersk Tower, for the University of Copenhagen, where a large sculptural staircase creates both vertical and horizontal connections between breakout spaces located on each of the different floors. These spaces for informal meetings and chance encounters create a series of miniature plaza’s within the open atrium.


The Maersk Tower creates the ideal framework for research and education at an top international level, and will also be crucial for the health of the Danish population in the future, says Ulla Wewer, Professor, DMSc and Dean Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Copenhagen.

Maersk Tower - Insights - Designing Laboratories - C.F. Møller. Photo: Adam Mørk

Integration of the surrounding community 

When working with large institutions like research facilities, or healthcare buildings, it is crucial to establish an involvement and synergy with the surrounding community, landscape, and public realm.


The better the synergy and involvement is with the community, the easier we can succeed in creating a building that embraces openness and provides quality for the community. This can be done by involving spaces and attractions in the building that extend beyond the building’s own residents and creates a natural and general accessibility for the public, says Klavs Hyttel.


At the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm the openness of the new laboratory building Biomedicum, has created a transparent, inviting ground floor, with public access to the atrium, as well as a café and public exhibition spaces. Links through the local park were established to strengthen public access to the institute, making Biomedicum a pivotal point in the area. This has created a distinctive icon of world class research, for which the Karolinska Institute is known.

The Maersk Tower is located in central Copenhagen, it has thus been important to ensure that the building both connects to its surroundings, and stands out by contributing to its lively neighborhood. Here every walk of life can meet, and there is a strong and welcoming connection between society and science. With its inviting, sustainable campus park and open square at the main entrance, the Maersk Tower is fully integrated with its surrounding neighborhood.


It is a big day for the University of Copenhagen, but it is also a very big day for Copenhagen as a city because the Maersk Tower is a gift to research, knowledge, and education. But it is also a big gift to the citizens of Copenhagen because this is a beautiful tower and it also gives something to the city, with its ground floor and gardens, and that we are very happy about, says Frank Jensen, Mayor of Copenhagen Municipality. 


The Maersk Tower is publicly accessible during opening hours, with cycle and walking paths crossing the base of the building, thus promoting social sustainability as well as integrating and connecting with its surroundings.

Klavs Hyttel - Insights - Designing Laboratories - C.F. Møller

The process

In the development and building process, cooperation with the users of the building is crucial if all parameters of the building are to be successful, says Klavs Hyttel.


We believe it is necessary with good democratic processes, where users have the opportunity to show their workflows, and we can contribute with our expertise and insights into what is possible and try to get those two things to match. Thus, the knowledge and routines that are known by the users, will form the basis of our innovative approach, improving some routines, while also being based on familiar workflows, says Klavs Hyttel.


The work on the Darwin Centre, a part of the National History Museum in London, began in early 2002 and lasted until 2009. During the majority of that time the C.F. Møller architectural team was located within the Natural History Museum, working closely with the future occupants of the new Centre. Through collaboration with scientists and curators from the Life Science departments, a series of open plan laboratories were designed, all of which are easily adaptable to the changing nature of research projects.


C.F. Møller were particularly attentive to the needs of the science users and worked well in partnership to ensure that user requirements were met, said Neil Greenwood, Director of Finance and Administration, Natural History Museum – Darwin Centre.

Maersk Tower - Insights - Designing Laboratories - C.F. Møller. Photo: Adam Mørk


Creating solutions for a rapidly advancing society, as laboratory requirements and working conditions change over time, means incorporating a large degree of flexibility which must be embedded in these buildings.


Flexibility in the laboratory and healthcare buildings means that installations measures can be moved around and ensure that they are up to date. The relationship between offices and laboratories is constantly changing, and it is important to embrace the versatility and the shifting need for this. This is done by ensuring that the installations that are used in the laboratories are also present in the office areas, and vice versa, says Klavs Hyttel.


With Biomedicum, the Karolinska Institute has gained a single, unifying environment for future research with ultra-flexibly equipped laboratories and office facilities which act as a catalyst for cross-cutting collaboration between the various research and study environments. The general research floor layout is divided into a coherent two band solution of offices and labs. The office spaces are placed in an outer perimeter band, with a wide lab zone creating the inner band which borders the inner courtyard.


Karolinska Institute is world-famous for its basic research, and Biomedicum will take this research to new heights, says Karolinska Institute’s President Ole Petter Ottesen.


At the Darwin Centre, the office and write-up areas were designed around flexible furniture that can be set up in various groupings and quickly re-arranged to allow research teams to be formed and re-formed.

The Technical Faculty - Insights - Designing Laboratories - C.F. Møller. Photo: Jørgen True



Sustainability is an overriding obligation on all buildings we work with, therefore it is also a natural part of the work on research and hospital buildings.


Today, we are able to work with building components that can generate energy and ensure a greater degree of sustainability through the choice of materials and constructions. The entire conglomerate of elements available to ensure sustainability must be aligned with, and part of the overall mindset, and concept of the building process. In addition, we are also working to minimise the energy consumption used during construction, and not least the energy consumption of that building subsequently, says Klavs Hyttel.


The Technical Faculty at the University of Southern Denmark is built to meet the Low Energy Class according to BR95. This is done through well insulated walls, effective solar panels on the roof, and a mixed system of natural and mechanical ventilation which further reduces heating use and expenses.


The Maersk Tower is another example of how a state-of-the-art research facility can also demonstrate new and innovative sustainability solutions. The sustainability strategy has been an integrated aspect of the building’s design from the start. The towers form, the layout of the floors, and the façade solutions are all examples of how the design of the tower can contribute positively to the building environmental footprint. The Maersk Tower has been designed, built, and certified as a Low Energy Class 1 building, with a primary energy consumption of 40 kWh/m² pr year. The façade is divided into a relief-like grid with shutters that function as movable climate shields. These automatically open or close according to sunlight conditions, ensuring direct heat gain in the laboratories is at a minimum.


Biomedicum - Insights - Designing Laboratories - C.F. Møller. Photo: Mark Hadden

Daylight for wellbeing

Daylight is always a major focus when designing our buildings. The positioning of the building and its form are guided by daylight and environmental conditions. Meaning that we work with facades that can shield against overheating and control the daylight, and thus achieve the most optimal conditions, as to where certain spaces are placed in the building, says Klavs Hyttel.  


Optimised daylighting is one of the key features ensuring that the Phama Science Building is constructed as Low Energy Class 2015, with a total energy requirement of max 41 kWh/m²/year.

At Akershus University Hospital, in Bergen the design of the complex reveals the influence of the high priority given to daylight for all workspaces. This also frames views of the surrounding landscape and creates contact with the outside environment.


Pharma Science Building - Insights - Designing Laboratories - C.F. Møller. Photo: Kurt Hoppe

Recent laboratory projects by C.F. Møller Architects

Recently completed work by C.F. Møller Architects with state-of-the-art labs includes Akershus University Hospital in Oslo, Pharma Science and The Maersk Tower in Copenhagen, Biomedicum in Stockholm, and AU Food and Aarhus University Hospital in Aarhus. The office is continuing the work with Aarhus University Hospital and is working on a transformation of the Aarhus Municipality Hospital for the University of Aarhus.


Maersk Tower
Darwin Centre
The Technical Faculty
Pharma Science Building

Booklet - The Lab for the Future

More news

Show more news