World Health Organisation, WHO


Copenhagen, Denmark






2.020 m2


WHO – Conceptor Development


Midtconsult A/S


Architectural approach

Since the period of modernism in the middle of the last century, architecture has been in a state of constant development. After postmodernism, in the 1980’s a number of ideologies and -isms were explored in an attempt to find a suitable direction future architecture. Since the middle of the 1990’s in Scandinavia and especially in Denmark, architecture has been characterized by the minimalistic approach. Despite its qualities, minimalistic architecture often lacks a dialogue with its users. In the cultivation of regular spaces and the small details, the resulting architecture often is characterized by the lack of human empathy, both for the viewer and for those who must live or work in these settings.

This building represents an attempt to bring man and architecture together in a context where the qualities of the architecture lie not in the detailing but in a balance between man and architecture. A coupling of humanism and minimalism – a kind of “huminalism.”

The point of departure was to create a more three-dimensional architecture, where functions, surfaces and volumes were split up in individual elements and then recombined in a composition. The individual volumes and functions appear on their own as individual elements, while they also are part of a mutual composition, which as a whole offers a three-dimensional, total experience of the building.

There is no division or transition between the facades and roofs. The building is conceived as three-dimensional volumes, where parts of the facade continue to become the roof, and continue down on the other side as facades again. The precise bands of Rheinzinc thereby define all the building’s facades and ceilings and embrace the protruding cedar-covered volume.

Rheinzinc’s neutral grey colour has the ability to absorb and effect an overall composure and harmony for the entire area. The material character of zinc varies from warm to cold throughout the day and the season’s changing light and nuances. The cedar and Rheinzinc work together in creating a balance between cold and warm in the facade expression, and effect an equilibrium in the dialogue between the landscape space and the building volumes.

The windows are recessed in the facades to enhance the scheme’s three-dimensionality.

Architecture and landscape

The landscape and building volumes are perceived as coherent commensurate elements. A floating entrance bridge protrudes from the building and invites the visitor inside. The path into the building passes over a pool of water that refers to WHÓs role in the international community. The bridge can be seen as the link that ties the continents together, as well as the industrialized countries and the developing countries, and via this path over the water a mental shift occurs from everyday life in Denmark to a place where one works to make the world a better place to live in.

The atrium

Inside the building, one is welcomed by an atrium, which is the central point that ties all the different levels together. In concept the bridge sequence is a long concrete slab, which is cut off and folded to produce stairs and landings. The stairways and landings are thereby transformed to individual volumes, which is further emphasized by placing them asymmetrically and floating over the decks. In addition, this asymmetry offers a dynamic contrast to the building’s stringent column grid.

The walls in the atrium are of glass brick, and together with the skylights serve as important elements in the experience of the building’s inner and outer transparency.

Space planning

Around the atrium, the workplaces are located in open office landscapes. The doctors and researchers at WHO previously sat in cell offices and it was essential that each was given a workplace that offered a balance between a private sphere and the ability to be a physical part of a working community with the sharing of knowledge and communication.  In a close collaboration with WHO, a new office system, “Flexus” was specially designed as an extension of the building’s huminalistic architecture. The form and organic arrangement of the workplaces in the office landscape are based on the individual employee. A circle is divided in an ergonomic, 120 degree basic module, which can be varied infinitely. Tables, screens, storage units and “parasols” together create the delicate balance between the individual and the common social space. The screens and “parasols” have a noise dampening function. All the shelf systems are designed with full-length pull-out boards for the stacking and sorting of paper and files.