The dream of a 'Student Innovation House' is starting to materialize

Skrevet af Jannick Friis ChristensenJesper Snedker Adamsen, (versioning) - Foto: Jørn Albertus - 6. februar 2015 - 16:430 kommentarer
Three members of the steering committee, (left to right): Andreas Gjedde, Christian Refshauge, and CBS Students' newly elected Chairman of the Board, Jens Bonde. Anne Marie Larsen is currently on exchange.

During the past couple of years a group of students has put significant effort into the project. ‘Villum Fonden’ has now donated DKK 19.5m to the visionary project and CBS has bought the former police station. The CBS Student Innovation House is now well under way. 

CBS buys former police station for students

At the recent CBS New Year’s Reception CBS President Per Holten-Andersen revealed the purchase of the former police station situated next to Solbjerg Plads.

He told the guests that CBS Students will be organizing the renovation of the building, which will eventually be turned into a ‘Student Innovation House’ for all students at CBS.

If all this is new to you, it is understandable as the heads of the project have intentionally withheld the plans and visions for the project in order to avoid a situation of broken promises.

Old dream with new wings

The ambition to realize a project of this magnitude can be traced back to 2006. But obstacles hindered the project from getting off the ground as it was put on standby in 2009.

However, due to the donation of DKK 19.5m from the foundation Villum Fonden, the dream of a new facility for CBS students is looking to get off the ground sooner rather than later although total costs of renovating the building will reach a total of DKK 53m. Thus, fundraising efforts will continue.

Some of the conditions attached to the donation from Villum Fonden are that CBS Students must raise the remaining DKK 33.5m, and that the initial plans and visions for the project are maintained without implementing any significant changes.

But the project’s steering committee is convinced that the impressive donation of DKK 19.5m should be able to attract attention and interest from other potential financial donors.

Steering committee reveals plans

The steering committee’s members are Andreas Gjedde, Anne Marie Larsen, and Christian Refshauge. They are all members or previous members of the CBS Board of Directors and they have displayed extraordinary effort and enthusiasm in relation to the wording of the visions for the project, and in relation to the process of pitching the project to numerous potential financial partners and donors.

And at this point the committee is confident that it will succeed and thus that the dream will materialize in the foreseeable future. Fortunately, this optimism meant that CBS OBSERVER was invited to a tour of the facilities and a talk about ambitions and the possibilities that the more than 32,000 square feet of space represent.

You can write the committee at info@studenthouse.dk if you have any suggestions in relation to their work with the project.

Student Innovation House in demand

Andreas Kristian Gjedde, MSc in Business Administration and Psychology, is the newly elected student representative on the board of directors.

During his election campaign in relation to the recently held CBS Elections, he was convinced of the necessity of establishing the Student Innovation House as a large number of students expressed support for the project.

- There is minimal room for introspection and absorption in activities on campus. We are nearly 23,000 students at CBS and still we do not have a place we can call our own, a place where we decide how to interact socially and academically, says the newly elected member of the board and elaborates:

- New student organizations are constantly popping up from all corners of the student body and students want to be active and engage themselves in these activities. Hence, we have a lot of ideas and activities but insufficient facilities.

The Mayor of Frederiksberg supportive from day one

With the student body constantly increasing there is no indication that the need for a new facility will decline anytime soon and as the former police station was put up for sale 2 years ago, the steering committee had no doubts.

- At the time we were actually interested in the nearby church, which was to be demolished. But we managed to make a verbal agreement with Jørgen Glenthøj, Mayor of Frederiksberg Municipality, and he supported our ideas right from the get-go, says Christian Refshauge, who graduated with an MSc in Business Administration and Information Systems in 2013.

Christian tells us that the original plan was to run the project independently and without the involvement of CBS by establishing a fund.

- However, that turned out to be financially impossible as CBS Students would have to scrape together a total of DKK 83m for the purchase and renovation of the former police station within a very limited time frame as the state-owned real-estate company, Freja, had acquired the building and wanted a sale as fast as possible. And thus CBS made an offer, says Christian Refshauge.

Financial goals could be met during the summer

Whether or not the steering committee manages to meet the financial goals for the project will soon be evident, says Christian Refshauge. A number of applications have been sent to a variety of foundations and he hopes that at least two of the larger ones will support the project. The committee waits in anticipation as it expects to receive replies during the spring.

- Obviously, if we do not manage to meet the financial targets within a year, CBS might be inclined to dedicate the building to other purposes; CBS staff members are also in need of more room for their activities. However, the positive thing is that all of the potential partners we have been in contact with have expressed interest in the idea of the Student Innovation House, says Christian Refshauge and continues:

- One of the missions of the project is to facilitate a better integration of international students at CBS as several surveys have indicated that most international students do not get any Danish friends during their stay and end up socializing exclusively with other internationals; and as a consequence they choose to return to their native countries instead of trying to make a career in Denmark and that is a shame.

Flexible spaces with Legos and hammocks

Engineers as well as architects have been engaged to estimate whether the building corresponds with the demands posed by the visions of the project.

And the answer is that it most certainly does.

The many options are described in the material sent to potential donors.

- The former police station is now CBS’ oldest building and the challenge is to preserve the historic framework while thinking out of the box in relation to the future design of the facilities, says Christian Refshauge and stresses that the visions include more than just facilitating social activities:

- It is safe to say that the final result will in no way resemble UCPH’s ‘Studenterhuset’. The student facilities available at other Danish universities are almost exclusively focused on social aspects; and there is nothing wrong with that, but we want to focus on some other aspects in addition to social recreation.

And Andreas Gjedde adds:

- Among other things we have considered flexible spaces for creative minds; an idea inspired by Google, he says and continues:

- The interior of the building must embrace and support all students at CBS, and should facilitate students’ personal development. We must also invite society into the everyday lives of students… Maybe we will build a room entirely of Legos; maybe we will establish a small news room so that students can stay updated. But we will also accommodate students with needs at the other end of the scale, i.e. we intend to design a room with hammocks ready for students in need of a power nap.

However, Christian and Andreas stress that no final decisions will be made before sufficient funding has been secured... or, there is one thing that is certain:

The working title in English, ‘CBS Student and Innovation House’ is a very deliberate choice. CBS Students wants the project to become an international icon, an attraction in terms of the architecture as well as the use of the building, which, of course, will meet the highest international standards for sustainability.

Room for both absorption and distortion

Thus, if the project is completed, it will be a workshop with room for absorption as well as distortion; a place that also helps shape young entrepreneurs and managers thereby contributing to economic growth.

- The essence is that everyone should feel welcome. We must create an atmosphere of visibility and transparency, because there is nothing worse than to witness other being engaged in an interesting activity and not knowing how to become part of that, says Christian Refshauge while he holds up a draft showing a glass roof over the courtyard, which would then become sort of a square for the guests.

- Most student at CBS know that there are numerous activities going on all the time but they do not know where these activities take place, i.e. we have supply and demand, we just need to merge them. We believe that the solution is our ‘market place’ for student activities, says Andreas Gjedde.

Christian Refshauge has suggested that the top floor should be designed to accommodate conferences and thus events for the significant number of CBS alumni.

- We would also like to welcome alumni and the new facility should be the natural location for alumni to meet up; a symbol of the fact that you were once a student at CBS and still is part of the CBS family.

Steering committee wants to realize the plans

On the prospects, Christian Refshauge says:

- We are not there yet, but we have come a long way and we are now closer than ever. It has been tough witnessing the financial erosion at CBS. But this is one of the reasons why we took it upon ourselves to realize the shared dream of a new facility for all CBS students.

And what happens if you do not get the necessary funding?

- Well, we have done everything possible to make it happen. There is immediate need for these facilities, but insufficient funds will force us to go back to the drawing board, says Christian Refshauge and concludes that:

- The dream is within our reach. When we have secured the necessary funds, we expect the renovation and decoration to last a total of 2 years, but maybe some of the facilities will open sooner.