‘Architecture Shapes Behaviour’ Inspires Danish Firm To Establish Behavioural Research Cluster


In order to try and understand the complexity of cities, it is best to think of them like ecosystems rather than machines or organisms.

Danish group 3XN architects and GXN Innovation have used this approach as inspiration for a new industry defining research cluster.

The Copenhagen-based cluster has an overarching focus on practice-led design research, bringing together studio architects and research groups to advance the agenda for informed design.

‘Architecture Shapes Behaviour’

aims to extend on these discussions to better understand how architecture and human behaviour collide. Through the research, they intend to transfer this knowledge into design strategies for modern ways of working and living.


Ørestad Gymnasium, København, DK - 3XNwww.3xn.dkTo provide context, a machine will be programmed to carry out a specific operation or series of operations, whereas an ecosystem is an ever-evolving and highly adaptive process that performs several different operations, not all of which are directly connected.

A machine functions off a set of variables however an ecosystem’s variables are ever changing because they are determined by the behaviours of people and things.

The importance of this underlies our ability to see the connection between design and behaviour, with the ecosystem approach reinforcing the notion that human behavior shapes our cities, yet our cities also shape our behaviour.

Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill illustrated this point perfectly when he declared that “we shape our buildings, and afterwards, our buildings shape us.”

“We have a spoken mission; to spearhead a global agenda around how architecture shapes behaviour. This is how we will walk the talk,” said Kasper Guldager Jensen, director of GXN, the innovation company behind 3XN architects.

“The cluster will focus on how architecture informs human behaviour by bringing social science, economic science, behavioural science, and material science into architecture.”


Since 2010, with their ‘Mind Your Behaviour’ exhibition, 3XN has had a steady focus on mapping out and learning from post-occupancy evaluations of their own buildings.

The 3XN studio brings together architects and engineers to work alongside anthropologists and behavioural specialists to determine the relationship between built form and behaviour.

“We are looking for passionate people who want to change how we think and design our buildings, this is very much an unknown territory that requires interdisciplinary collaborations,” says GXN Head of Innovation, Kåre Stokholm Poulsgaard.

The ‘Architecture Shapes Behaviour’ cluster forms part of a new research network opening at the BLOXHUB Science Forum. The total network is expected to comprise some 35 PhDs in a practice-led research exercise into different aspects of sustainable urban development.

3XN/GXN, in conjunction with BVN architects and clients AMP Capital, are currently overseeing the development of Australia’s largest commercial building in Sydney’s Circular Quay. Located on a prime Sydney CBD site, Quay Quarter is one of the most anticipated commercial developments in the country.

The project represents the ultimate opportunity for 3XN and GXN to put their design theory into practice for the 10,000 workers that will call Quay Quarter, and its ecosystem, home.


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