Gammel Hellerup High School might just be one of the coolest high schools in the world. Bjarke Ingels, who heads his eponymous architecture firm, injected a bit of edge to the existing campus just north of Copenhagen with an underground gym and multi-purpose hall in 2013. This extension was the most significant addition to the campus until the Danish architect completed a new arts building for his former high school last November.
The new facility spans 1,400sq m over two floors and is housed in a glass facade with a vaulted ceiling that sits adjacent to the football fields. Included in the vast space are a cafeteria and additional classrooms to accommodate the school’s increased enrollment. Also featured is a grassy, sloped rooftop area that gives the football field a visual extension but is actually a raked space for students to hang out and watch the game.
“The design came from the school’s need to expand and provide much-needed facilities to existing students,”explains Finn Nørkjær, partner at Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). “The new addition gives students the opportunity to indulge in more space and facilities for the arts and sports.”
One of the major challenges of the project was how to create a cohesive integration between the buildings, so the team at BIG cleverly connected them by constructing part of the new building under the football fields.
Nørkjær says: “We proposed a continuous path that joins all parts of the school: starting at the new entrance and running through the main building, the new underground sports hall, which doubles as social space above ground, and up through the new education building out onto the football fields.”
The team also kept the aesthetics and materials consistent to form a visual unity. Timber cladding and concrete were used extensively throughout to create the curvaceous walls and ceilings for both buildings. The sports hall features a timber ceiling shaped like delicate waves, with wood flooring and raw concrete walls.
In the new structure, the materials are inverted. “Where the hall has wood below, and concrete on the sides – the arts building has wood sandwiched between concrete above and below,” explains Nørkjær.
“In the new expansion, materials have another function: an experimental porous concrete turns the walls into a sound-absorbing device,” he adds. Tables and chairs also line the hallway to give students additional breakout areas for studying or socialising.
With Gammel Hellerup High School’s amazing green roof and head-turning buildings, it’s hard to imagine not wanting to go to school here.
Bjarke Ingels designs a new arts building for his former high school