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A Cobot Hub for humans and robots
#smart office

A Cobot Hub for humans and robots

Heralding a bright future in an innovative, exciting location, this robotics centre in Denmark designed by 3XN is expected to become the perfect place to work. It is a Cobot Hub for the employees at two companies. And also for the robots developed there.

Designed to share workspaces with humans, a “cobot” assists its mortal “colleagues” without endangering them. Unfortunately, not every collaborative robot – aka cobot – is as cute as R2-D2 from the blockbuster movie Star Wars. These high-tech helpers usually look just how they are supposed to look – like machines. That said, developing industrial robots requires a great deal of expertise. State-of-the-art facilities are an absolute must. Leading Danish architects 3XN are now building one such establishment for two companies that want to join forces to produce further innovations. Initial designs have now revealed what this intriguing Cobot Hub will look like.

State-of-the-art laboratory for innovative ideas

The new, joint headquarters of Universal Robots (UR) and Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR) in Odense, Denmark, will have 20,000 square metres of floor space. Both of these companies specialize in cobots. Following significant growth in recent years, the new centre will play an important role in their further development. Currently, their offices are spread out over five different sites. CEO of MiR Søren Nielsen explains: “We will now group most of our activities in a new joint domicile, which will be the world’s largest hub for collaborative robots.”

Ample space for humans, robots and greenery: the lobby of the new Cobot Hub in Odense. (Rendering: 3XN)
Ample space for humans, robots and greenery: the lobby of the new Cobot Hub in Odense.

The competition brief was to develop a Cobot Hub that boosts employee well-being while creating the highly specialized environment necessary for robotics research and development. Ultimately, the clients needed a building that helps “to attract talents from all over the world to work with cobots”.

Modelled on a robot

Competition winners 3XN from Denmark came up with some clever ideas to fulfil these requirements. Such as adaptable working areas: in the same way as robots are assembled using various components, the Cobot Hub will also consist of modules. These will be precisely tailored to the needs of the two robotics enterprises. “We have worked closely with the users of the building since the beginning of the process, and we have conducted many interviews to outline what the new building needs to deliver,” says 3XN architect and senior partner Audun Opdal.

Offices and playrooms

The Cobot Hub will contain traditional offices and modern workshops, plus laboratories and creative robot “playrooms”. In short, everything that is needed by people who develop visionary technologies.

Encouraging communication and well-being: the bright, open interior of the new building. (Rendering: 3XN)
Encouraging communication and well-being: the bright, open interior of the new building.

This modular approach is useful in several respects. Although the cubic volumes are interesting purely from an architectural perspective, they also ensure that the building can be enlarged or downsized in response to future requirements. Key parts of the structure and materials can be redesigned and reused. For instance, the design team developed a timber construction that can be recycled. Wood not only stores CO2 during its entire lifetime, it is also aesthetic and contributes to a good indoor climate.

Focus on cooperation

The design of the Cobot Hub is based on a campus concept. It includes open office landscapes and shared areas/recreation zones where employees from both companies can meet and relax. The facility aims to encourage an active exchange of knowledge, innovation and creativity. Opdal is conscious of the need to provide a pleasant environment that invites people to communicate: “This has been solved by prioritizing a number of common areas and atriums that open the building up and create visibility and transparency, and encourage social interaction and cooperation between people and departments.”

The courtyard area is designed to become the heart of the Cobot Hub. (Rendering: 3XN)
The courtyard area is designed to become the heart of the Cobot Hub.

Spatial qualities such as daylight and open spaces also contribute to employee well-being. The low construction with its flat, greened roof blends inconspicuously into the surrounding area. A large courtyard forms the heart of the Cobot Hub, conceived as an important “centre of social life”. Whilst the two companies will retain certain “borders” inside the building, outside in the courtyard the employees will be able to mingle, relax and exchange ideas at any time.

It is likely that 3XN’s reputation influenced the jury’s decision to choose this winning design. After all, this Danish firm has repeatedly produced sensational designs for years.

A Cobot Hub for humans and robots. (Rendering: 3XN)

Their creations include the tallest timber office building in Toronto, the beautiful new fish market in Sydney and Stockholm’s flexible, modern Kvarter 15. The enthusiastic team knows exactly how to combine their clients’ wishes and needs with an environmentally friendly concept that provides excellent quality of life. Universal Robots interim president Greg Smith explains: “We chose 3XN and their design because of their ability to create buildings with a focus on innovative and creative environments.” This goes “hand-in-hand with UR and MiR’s focus” on the development of robots for the future.

Cobot Hub for visionaries

Completion of the Cobot Hub is planned for 2023. And expectations are running high. Not just because of the extraordinary building, but also with an eye to what will come out of it. After all, collaborative robots are in great demand. Since they have long been capable of independent, self-controlled movements, they can be used in many different areas. And so at some point, distant relatives of R2-D2 might just be bustling around the corridors of the new campus after all. Especially when you consider that in our modern world a lot of what was seen as purely science fiction not so long ago has already become everyday reality.

Text: Elisabeth Schneyder
Translation: Rosemary Bridger-Lippe
Renderings: 3XN 

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