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Every site is unique

The site forms the basis for all projects at STED By og Landskab. Partner Martin Hjerl and landscape architect Jens Holm explain how digital tools helps STED to link buildings to the landscape.

"STED emerged from an ambition to dissolve the red line between buildings and landscapes," says Martin Hjerl, partner and landscape architect MDL. In 2015 he opened the Copenhagen-based design studio STED By og Landskab (STED City and Landscape, STED means Site in Danish) together with Rosa Lund, landscape architect from KADK. “Based on our different educations, we employ a cross-disciplinary approach on all our projects.”

We invited Martin Hjerl and Jens Holm to a talk about STED's projects, why they, as some of the first landscape architects in Denmark, decided to use BIM, and how BIM helps to integrate landscape architecture into building projects at an early stage.

The site is the starting point

“For us, sustainable architecture derives from the context and respect for the character of a given site. When we work, we focus on ensuring the balance between respect and renewal. We always use the potential of the site as a starting point, which we believe is crucial for developing robust and sustainable architecture,” Martin Hjerl emphasizes.

For STED, every site is unique. To transfer this mindset to specific projects, it is imperative to remain constantly curious in order to create something new that challenges habitual thinking. It is also one of the reasons for the interdisciplinary focus at STED, where the staff consists of architects, landscape architects, urban planners, anthropologists and communicators.

STED use both physical models and digital tools to develop their projects. They believe that the physical model represents an informal approach to the development process and makes it easy to assemble the development team around a table. The physical models also function as a good dissemination tool towards clients and users.

“The digital 3D model can also be used for this, but the question is how to get the project beyond the computer. We sometimes put a photo into ARCHICAD, where we quickly create a model of the project. In this way, we remain intuitive while working BIM-based,” explains landscape architect and knowledgeable BIM user Jens Holm.

Client requirements made STED embrace BIM

Jens Holm was hired just after graduating in 2016 and embraced ARCHICAD on the first project he was involved in. The reason being a requirement for digital submission at the Steno Diabetes Center, which is being built by the Capital Region of Denmark with COWI as main consultant, Vilhelm Lauritzen Architects and Mikkelsen Arkitekter as advisers and STED as landscape architects.

Steno Diabetes Center

“In the past, we would most likely try to remove the BIM requirements from our contract. But this time we chose to embrace them, which has meant that the landscape becomes a more equal part of the projects. This makes particularly good sense on the Steno project, where the building is integrated with the landscape, and the intention is to get visitors to change their lifestyle and encourage people to move around in the lush and green landscape. This way waiting time also becomes experience time, just as movement has a positive influence on patients' physical and mental well-being,” Martin Hjerl explains.

BIM is good for cooperation

When STED had to choose a BIM platform, the choice quite naturally fell on ARCHICAD. “The reason we chose to move forward with ARCHICAD was because we heard that the program lies between AutoCAD and illustrator, and that it was not that difficult to use. It is also easy to get usable drawings and models out of ARCHICAD, which means we avoid switching between different programs all the time. In addition, we always start with the terrain, and when we heard that Land Software was developing LAND4 as a plugin for ARCHICAD, it also helped point us that way,” Martin Hjerl says.

“The fact that we use BIM also has a positive influence on cooperation with the other team members. For example, the full 3D model of the landscape around the building and the roof gardens has been very useful in clarifying the interfaces between the building and the landscape, since everyone speaks the same language. It is also good for mapping detail levels and ongoing collision checks,” Jens Holm adds.

At STED, they are convinced that their embrace of BIM is good for the collaboration, but there are also some pitfalls to be aware of when integrating building and landscape between different parties. “It’s no use to agree that everyone is responsible for ensuring that their models are correctly placed according to the landscape. A responsible ICT person has to be appointed in order to coordinate all the models,” Jens Holm emphasizes.

Room for improvement

Working with BIM has a been positive and value-adding experience for STED. However, there is still room for improvement when it comes to using BIM in the landscape. When designing buildings, you are often able to copy several windows or doors. When working with landscape architecture, there are not as many repetitions that you can apply directly to the project. “In addition to this, there is also a challenge with the plants, as they are living materials that change over time. It is difficult to reproduce moods, shades and colors correctly. Perhaps there is a task and a business model for plant schools to develop some data-infused digital BIM objects of their plants. These could, for example, indicate soil requirements, shading effects, growth over time and information regarding where to not to plant in specific locations, if there is not enough sun," Martin Hjerl says.

Kronløbsøen in Nordhavn

Another project STED is involved in is Kronløbsøen in Copenhagen's Nordhavn, where they form team with Vilhelm Lauritzen Arkitekter, COBE and Rambøll with By and Havn as clients. Kronløbsøen will become Denmark's island no. 1420, and the project is based on the existing Danish coastal nature, which is reinterpreted in a new architectural context. The project consists of housing and three new urban spaces, which will become a form of tread-stones connecting the three islands. “The result is a lush green oasis that gives people wind in their hair and while retaining contact to the water,” explains Martin Hjerl.

Jens Holm highlights how ARCHICAD and digital design has been a great help on the project, “Kronløbsøen contains both a deck under the landscape, and has a number of fairly complicated structures in the terrain, so BIM has been very useful on this project. It has also been good to use ARCHICAD to create shadow studies that show which planting can be placed in the different areas,” Jens Holm elaborates.

Increased respect for the landscape architects

“There is an increased demand for urban spaces and outdoor areas, which are the places we meet when we aren’t on social media, just as the climate crisis also means that landscape architects hold a key position in the value chain of the building industry. Landscape architects tie it all together, and we will see more landscape architects take the lead as the main consultants in the future than is the case today. Therefore, it’s important that we as a profession embrace and challenge the digital design tools so that we, together with the architects, engineers and other collaborators, can ensure the highest quality on the projects,” Martin Hjerl concludes.

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About Pawel Antoni Lange

Pawel Antoni Lange has worked with communication within the AEC industry for more than a decade. Pawel has a MA in Modern Culture and Dissemination of Culture from The University of Copenhagen as well as a B.Sc. from Copenhagen Business School.
  • Denmark