A forest of columns with clearings

A new state school in the Danish Municipality of Haderslev is visionary on multiple levels. For one, the column-beam system and facades are made of wood, which makes the 6,500 m2 school one of the largest timber structures to be constructed in Denmark in recent times. In addition, the teaching is based on the educational philosophy developed in New Zealand about student-centred learning and flexible open learning environments.

Working in close cooperation with the engineering company Sloth Møller and the other consultants, Arkitema was responsible for the architectural design of the school, and the project was executed with a sensitive and holistic attention to detail. The main architectural concept is based on the principle of a supported forest-like grid of columns in a fixed modular system. Some of the trees in the ‘forest’ have been ‘felled’ to create clearings with high ceilings and beautiful natural lighting. Elsewhere, more condensed spaces and cave-like niches have been formed. Like in the great outdoors.

Small universes

The new school is divided into seven clusters, with one cluster per year from Year 0 to Year 6. A cluster is a varied learning environment for the maximum of 70 children who are in a single year group. It consists of a number of different spaces ranging from small, private niches for immersive study to multifunctional workshop zones. The varied learning environment accommodates differentiated and diverse instructional strategies to a much greater extent than more traditional school buildings.

The shift from classroom-based teaching to year group-based education in all subjects is one of the cornerstones of the school. Other cornerstones are a strong focus on movement and physical exercise for all, healthy food and sustainability, as well as easy access to nature. Headmaster Karsten Rudbeck puts it this way: “Learning should be as easy and natural as breathing.”

The architecture matches the high ambitions, and the physical facilities are perfect in Erlev School. It is a pleasure to experience the great diversity of spaces, which are connected by fluid transitions. The acoustic environment is also outstanding, with extensive use of white-painted Troldtekt acoustic panels in fine structure.

Pernille Svendsen – Associate Partner and Business Area Manager, Arkitema Learning – is extremely pleased with the acoustic solution:

“I personally think that the Troldtekt ceilings are a wonderful match for the wooden structures and the many interior elements in wood. Troldtekt is both an acoustic solution and also suits the overall design catalogue for the school. The panels have a surface that is a bit rough, but in a good way. A school shouldn’t look too fine and polished. It should signal that it can withstand use, hanging things up, exhibiting and moving around. There’s room for change here.”


Erlev School in Municipality of Haderslev, Denmark
Haderslev Municipality
Troldtekt products
Ceiling panels:
Troldtekt acoustic panels
White 101
Fine (1.5 mm wood wool)
Edge design:
5 mm bevel, and rebate and groove, K5-FN
With concealed T profile system
Text & photos
Thomas Mølvig, architect
Thomas Mølvig, architect. Niels Nygaard, photographer.


School Building of the Year 2021 in Denmark.