Interview with Professor Jan Søndergaard
KHR Arkitekter

Fiberline Composites, Middelfart, Denmark

The Fiberline administrative and production building in Middelfart is an impressive demonstration of the fact that functional industrial buildings by no means have to be architecturally boring. What was your idea?

For us the question of how to build in an open landscape was important. If you visit the prehistoric buildings built by the Vikings or their predecessors in the north, you can see that they created spaces in the landscape that were surrounded by a kind of defensive wall. On the inside of this circular wall they built their houses. From a distance these buildings were only visible as a hill in the landscape. For us it was about how to respect the landscape. So we ended up with a very simple form – a clean and simple architecture.

Also, we always work with light, since we don’t have very much of it here in Denmark. So our idea was to combine the historical footprint in the landscape with light penetrating into the building’s interior. We associated this with the cracks in the surface of the earth, into which light enters, filling the enormous space beneath. The three large cuts in the building serve to light the entire production area. Thanks to the beautiful fiberglass that is produced here and also used for the facade, there are thousands of rays of light running through the space, making it very dynamic.

Inside the building you created one large room for all functional areas of the company. What idea did you follow here, and what convinced the company of the concept?

We combined the idea of existing in harmony with the landscape with the idea of creating one large space where everything takes place. We wanted to offer the same opportunities to the production workers and the administrative personnel. So we put everyone together in the same space – and it is enormous, almost 20,000 square meters. From the production area you can look up to the administration area, which is located in a kind of gallery behind a wall of glass. The fact that everyone is visually in the same space lends a strong, unified identity to the whole company.

What is your favorite room in the building, and what does it look like?

My favorite place is actually the large production area, because it demonstrates this idea that everyone is working together, and it energizes everyone. And of course I also like the meeting areas. They are located in the large glass cuts outside of the building. Anyone can go there and enjoy the beautiful view of the landscape, which improves the quality of the workday. The facade is angled at 60 degrees, and it makes you feel like flying. It’s like standing in free space, and you feel free to think in all kind of directions.

You decided on plain-colored DLW Linoleum for the offices and meeting areas. Why?

We chose it because it embodies the idea of a very simple surface – very clean and very simple. In the production area there is a special kind of concrete that has the same grey color as the linoleum. The color is very neutral and there are beautiful light effects, especially in the meeting areas. We actually don’t focus on the space, but on the surroundings. It was important for us to find materials that correspond to the main idea, and we think we made a very good choice. Everything relates to the main idea of a very simple building.

And I think you were very successful with that! Thank you very much for taking time for our interview!