The multipurpose school and communal house in the new suburb, Nærheden, can house 1400 students. It includes an integrated day-care, a sports hall, and cultural facilities for the surrounding community. The innovative vision of the school has played an important part in the growth and activity of Nærheden.
Studio Name: Christensen & Co Architects
Collaborators: Kjaer & Richter Architects, 1:1 Landscape, Oluf Jørgensen A/S, BAM Danmark
Area: 15.500 m²
Location: Høje-Taastrup, Denmark
Photography Credits: Adam Mørk, Kjaer & Richter, Christensen & Co
Learning spaces based on 21st Century Learning Skills
Nærheden Learning Centre is the first public school in Denmark based on 21st Century Learning Skills – also known as STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics). We have developed a pioneering new concept, where the architecture is a platform for fostering curiosity and a strong learning culture – a pedagogical tool designed to shape future learning. The school’s overall structure is created as a grid that can integrate elements and functional requirements without compromising the overall architectural concept.
According to the judges of the competition, the main architectural concept grants the “possibility of a changing scenography, which turns the building itself into a tool for learning. Together with teachers, nursery teachers, the municipality and the citizens we have developed a groundbreaking new concept where the architectural design is a platform for fostering curiosity and a strong learning culture”.
Outside, the structure weaves into the surrounding area with a variation of open, semi-open and closed features, creating a playful transparency that invites both nature and people inside. In the architecture, we’ve designed a Learning Loop – a vertical connection of stairs and pathways for climbing – which unites smaller and larger atriums that give access to exhibition areas, fab-labs, and makerspaces. Here, students create digital models that can be 3D-printed and made into prototypes. Thus, the school’s teaching and architecture enables students to navigate in – and eventually create – the digital world.
”We’re getting a fantastic house for learning that meets our vision for a school with a great professional level of knowledge. A learning environment that stimulates and grants all children and young people, regardless of their background, the opportunity to explore ideas and give them an outlet to their creative instincts, as a part of solving real life problems.” – Michael Ziegler, Mayor of Høje-Taastrup Municipality.
Sustainable ambitions in the learning spaces
In the school, energy initiatives and architecture naturally blend together. Green areas in, on and around the building make studying biodiversity and vegetation visible educational landmarks that strengthen the school’s position as a sustainable power centre.
In the project, there has been a focus on reducing the use of materials and energy-optimizing the building. For example, by minimizing the use of warm water, which eliminates the need for thick high-insulation walls required for water-heating. This significantly reduces the use of materials in the façade as well as the energy consumption and space wasted. This allows for a better use of the area, where more space is dedicated to a vibrant learning environment. The same goes for the acoustic solutions, which are integrated in the façade, so that the façade actively works to improve acoustics in the house. Lastly, the use of the area has been optimized by placing most of the ventilation and technical installations on the roof.
The building uses evaporative water cooling as a more natural and energy-efficient alternative to chemical cooling. By using this method, the building demands only 1/10 of the resources for regular cooling – and significantly reduces the environmental costs as well. Another sustainable initiative is the building’s extreme flexibility. The school has an open construction with no permanent walls, which makes it adjustable to changes over time. The building can easily be adapted to support new learning methods and needs so that it remains functional throughout its lifetime.
To save energy, the daylight conditions in the building have been optimized. Instead of using an external, mechanical sunscreen, the sunscreen is integrated as a passive solution in the windows and the building design. There are 20-30 different windows in the building, which were chosen based on their direction and location in the house. In some places, the building itself acts as a passive sunscreen since some of the windows are strategically located to be shielded by the construction at certain times of the day. Throughout the Learning Centre, there is a high level of natural daylight to save electricity from artificial lighting and create a healthy and inspiring indoor climate.