Biomimetic Architecture: Big Designs New Centre for Neuroscience and Psychiatry

The first of its kind in the world, a new neuroscience centre designed by BIG will bring together psychiatry and neuroscience under one roof to combine groundbreaking science and treatment of physical and mental brain diseases, spinal cord and nervous systems. BIG’s 19,000m2 design proposal for Aarhus University Hospital mimics the gyrification of the human brain to utilise the limited site area most efficiently while creating synergies between the different disciplines within the hospital.


Established in 2009, the Danish Neuroscience Center (DNC) has become a world-class research and treatment facility for understanding and treating the most complex, efficient and adaptive organ in our body – the brain. A new building for the DNC, set to open in 2026, will connect directly with the existing campus of Aarhus University Hospital and seeks to intensify the hospital’s unique approach combining healthcare, education and scientific research to collaborate and inspire each other. A major financial declaration of intent by the Salling Foundations allows the project to move forward.

BIG’s proposal for the six-storey neuroscience centre combines the efficiency of a double-loaded corridor building with the generosity and openness of a classic atrium typology. By folding the floorplan around an atrium, similar to the characteristic folds in the cerebral cortex, the design not only allows each floor to reach the necessary square footage within a limited area, but it also creates several connections and smaller clusters with intimate workspaces, courtyards and views between each floor within the hospital.

Talking of the project, Bjarke Ingels, Founding Partner at BIG, says: “The brain is the most complex organ in the human body. Our design for the new Danish Neuroscience Center in Aarhus replicates the most essential feature of the brain – the gyrification – to create more connections and space within limited confines. The building folds bring light, lots of new pathways and green pockets into the hospital, making nature and biodiversity part of the hospital’s research and the healing journey of its patients.”


Size: 19.852m2

Location: Aarhus, Denmark

Client: Aarhus University Hospital, Skejby, Aarhus,

Denmark Collaborators: Salling Fondene

Project type: Health, Science

Partners in charge: Bjarke Ingels, David Zahle

Project leader: Viktoria Millentrup

BIG team: Alexander Matthias Jacobson, Anders Holden Deleuran, Bachir Benkirane, Federico Martinez De Sola, Jesper Kanstrup Petersen, Julia Novaes Tabet, Luca Pileri, Lukasz Zbigniew Migala, Mikkel M. R. Stubgaard, Natasha Lykke Lademann Østergaard, Omar Mowafy, Taliya Nurutdinova, Victor Mads Moegreen, Zuzanna Eugenia Montwill, Kristoffer Negendahl and Mantas Povilaika

BIG ideas: Tore Banke, Katrine Juul

BIG landscape: Ulla Hornslyd

BIG engineering: Andy Coward

Patients and guests access the building through a generous reception area into the large, open atrium at the centre of the building, which contains an experience centre – an interactive public exhibition and presentation area where the visitors can learn about the hospital’s latest research and findings. The visitors can head directly to one of the clinics upstairs or enjoy the cafe and a public green courtyard at ground level.

Each department, from neurology to nuclear medicine, headache clinic and psychiatry, has its own distinct space and programme functions. To avoid separation and fragmentation between the disciplines, BIG proposes to organise them by the functions they have in common. This encourages crossbreeding between the different research groups that can help fuel inspiration, innovation and creativity and futureproof the spaces for growth, reduction or replacement.

“The Danish Neuroscience Center seeks to bridge the research and treatment of physical and psychological brain conditions and destigmatise psychological disorders,” says David Zahle, Partner at BIG. “Historically, hospitals have divided knowledge and expertise into different specialities and departments. DNC seeks to gather all current and future knowledge under one roof to create synergies between different expertise areas and a more holistic approach to understanding and curing brain disorders.”

Natural materials throughout the building, such as wood and brick, used in other buildings on the campus, will bring positive health benefits and a comforting atmosphere to the patients and guests. The red concrete of the exterior will blend well with the existing brick buildings and bring warmth to the spaces, contrasting the usual clinical and sanitised white environment of hospitals.

All office areas in the building are planned to be naturally ventilated, and every floor has access to an outdoor terrace. A stretched metal window mesh prevents all workspaces from being affected by glare or direct sunlight, filtering the light to provide each office, laboratory or examination room with pleasant natural illumination. The project aims for a DGBN Gold sustainability certification for hospitals in Denmark.

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