”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.
The new multipurpose school and communal house for learning in Høje-Taastrup municipality in central Zealand can house 1400 students. It includes an integrated daycare and a sports hall. The architecture is designed to shape the future of learning, which means that the building itself works as a pedagogical tool, unfolding numerous possibilities for experimentation based on 21st century learning skills, defined as science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics. The overall structure is created as a grid, which can integrate a number of elements and functional requirements, without compromising the overall architectural concept. 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. Here, the Learning Loop – a vertical connection of stairs and pathways for climbing – unites smaller and larger atriums, which offers access to exhibition areas, fab-labs and maker-spaces.
Learning spaces based on 21st Century Learning Skills
Nærheden is the first public school in Denmark based on 21st Century Learning Skills – also known as STEAM (Science Technology Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics). Through dialogues with teachers, educators, the municipality and citizens, we have developed a pioneering new concept, where the architecture is a platform for 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. 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 school 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. The visual connections between the activities is the driving force for synergy and meetings across the spaces. Students and teachers can thus be inspired by each other. The future students do not only need to navigate in the digital world – they are going to create it. That’s why the communal house Nærheden is designed as a tool that prepares for the future with a fluid work life and increased focus on new rapid development in technology skills. The ability to understand and navigate in this digital world is a key point for the teaching and therefore also in the architecture. The entire building has access to the wireless network while fab-labs and makerspaces give students the opportunity to create digital models that can be 3D-printed and made into prototypes.
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 platform for fostering curiosity and a strong learning culture”.
Sustainable ambitions in the learning spaces
In the Learning Centre, energy initiatives and architecture naturally blend together, and the educational potential is visible in the architecture on several levels and can therefore be easily included in the teaching. Green areas in, on and around the building are a natural part of the learning environment of the future. In the landscape around the school, students can explore nature and gain insight into topics such as biodiversity and wildlife. Understanding and learning about biodiversity and vegetation thus become visible educational landmarks that strengthen the learning house’s position as a sustainably ambitious power centre.
In the project, we have focused on reducing the use of materials and energy-optimizing the building. For example, we have minimized 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 our acoustic solutions, which are integrated in the façade, so that the façade actively works to improve acoustics in the house. Lastly, we have optimized our use of the area 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, we have optimized daylight conditions in the building. Instead of using an external, mechanical sunscreen, the sunscreen is integrated as a passive solution in the windows and the building design. We use 20-30 different windows in the building, that 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, we have ensured a high level of natural daylight to save electricity from artificial lighting and create a healthy and inspiring indoor climate.
SDGs in the project
In the project we have worked with issues related to the Sustainable Development Goals. However, the project was not designed to address the global goals. We have worked with issues related to: SDG 3: Good Health and well-being, SDG 4: Quality education, SDG 7: Affordable and clean energy, SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth, SDG 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure, SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities, SDG 12: Responsible consumption and production, SDG 13: Climate action, SDG 14: Life below water, SDG 15: Life on land and SDG 17: Partnerships for the goals.
- Høje-Taastrup Municipality
- 15.500 m²
- Høje-Taastrup, Denmark
- Kjaer & Richter Architects, 1:1 Landscape, Oluf Jørgensen A/S, BAM Danmark
- EDiT - architectural visualization studio, Adam Mørk
- Nærheden School was commended in the Civic & Community category AR Future Projects Award in 2019 at MIPIM