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Sight on information city


The Danish architect and researcher Helle Juul wants to combine the library and the university campus into a new, vibrant urban environment.

A city could function actively as an urban melting pot producing shared information and energy. This is the opinion of Helle Juul, a Danish architect and researcher, who proclaims future experimental centres. By this she means a city that would combine the information created at universities, the city’s own offering and the social activity of people. Juul, who has researched the integration of campus areas to the rest of the urban environment, includes the future library among the important city elements.

Helle Juul gave presentation in The New Library conference in Helsinki on 10th February 2011.

Helle Juul graduated from the Aarhus School of Architecture in 1981 and moved to Copenhagen with her husband Flemming Frost. Together they own the JUUL | FROST Architects studio that employs 24 architects, landscape designers, engineers and masters of Arts in various projects. Since the last two decades, Juul has been researching on the changing urban space and urban planning and has published two books on the topic: Urban space I and II. Currently she is working as a team leader in campus and city planning projects.

“We work with the Technical University of Denmark and Professionshøjskolen UCC, for example. Our campus idea and method have implemented projects in Sweden as well.”

Juul has the main responsibility for a project named “The Future Campus Areas – From the Academic Village to Urban University Hub”. The purpose has been to create a functional toolkit for developing universities.

“Universities around the world compete for students, researchers and grants. The one-sided, unidirectional university system of the past is no longer productive – the information is everywhere. The current focus of our project is on combining an active campus area, business life and urban environment. Orientation of this kind can only be beneficial to all parties.”

Moving Media City in Malmö (Photo: Juul Frost Arkitekter).

Students have been actively involved in the project. For example, Juul’s group has conducted surveys and research work among the students at the Lancaster University and Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich. People at the universities have had the opportunity to share their opinions on the characteristics of an attractive campus environment. It has become evident that all the added value brought from outside is highly appreciated and desired.

“There are several concrete examples of combining a university area with an urban area. One, for example, is that an art gallery or music area is located on campus. Or the health of the inhabitants could be improved by locating several public sports premises near the universities. The city residents could then visit the university’s area and the premises would be used efficiently. From a business perspective, various business idea incubators and science parks are good examples. On the other hand, the competence of students and activities of universities could be showcased outside the campus through exhibitions, for example.”

The focus of  campus planning is the importance and significance of meeting places. Juul reasserts that universities are not only places for learning, or practising critical thinking, but also for coping with the social challenges of the future.

“This kind of learning does not take place in class rooms, but in places where students meet each other and interact. The need for a new kind of integration arises from the fact that in the future cities will be hybrids, fusions of activities and needs, and universities will also be incorporated with them as a part of the urban environment. Campus areas will no longer be private learning machines somewhere on the outskirts, but a part of the functioning and active urban environment. The current utilisation of university areas already reflects the future interaction, where the entire city is an information centre and, above all else, a significant meeting place.”

“I believe that co-operation between campuses, business and cities will create an unparalleled synergy. At the same time, the important research work conducted by universities, for example in biomedicine and information technology, could be further developed.”

“When the city residents see the university’s actual operations around them, the importance of study is emphasised. Many people may notice that a university degree is a stable option. This is important at a time when the importance of education cannot be stressed enough.”

Minskeppet Malmössä (Kuva: Juul Frost Arkitekter).


Library as a social challenge

Juul sees the same features and needs in campus ideation and in planning the future library.

“The role of libraries is changing. Generally speaking, my own favourite library type is the kind that adapts to the society’s changes. In my opinion, libraries have five challenges to surpass. First of all, a library should be open around the clock in its digital format. Secondly, a library should serve as a general, everyday meeting place. Thirdly, I emphasise a space for creative reflection. The fourth task is to esteem the acquisition and distribution of information in the society. Lastly, new service forms and business operations, such as small enterprises, could be given premises at a library.” “Moreover, universities and libraries have other shared challenges to surpass. These include, globalisation, new innovations, co-operation with business sectors, diversity, and multidisciplinarity.”

“Our work with campus research has created strategies also for libraries and this work will have to face various demands. A library must adapt, like a campus, to the rest of the urban environment and operate as its own building among the others. One important area for library development is social emphasis, how the social life between people functions inside and outside a library. One must not forget the traditional task of a library either, that of sharing, storing and organising information.”

Juul also encourages the residents of Helsinki to reflect on the development and diversity needs of both the campus and library area. There is a lesson to be learnt from the Danish urban space method.

“This way, a library could be created in Helsinki as well, where it would be easy to meet other people — whether you are a tourist, student or city resident. It also makes the city an interesting centre that lays emphasis on information, learning and interaction.”

Source: Juul Frost Architects

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