One respect in which an Arctic building like Nuuk School differs from traditional Danish school buildings is in its relationship with light:
“If you’re designing a school in Nuuk and want a good indoor climate, you have to prioritise both daylight and artificial lighting in a way you wouldn’t in Denmark, even though it would still be a priority in Denmark,” Janina Zerbe explains.
With that in mind, the buildings of Nuuk School feature distinctive roof structures with skylights to allow daylight to flood into the common assembly rooms from two directions (north/south and east/west).
KHR Architecture lets the climate and landscape govern the design of the actual buildings in the same way.
“The buildings need to be shaped according to the prevailing winds, and they have to harmonise with the landscape,” she explains. “So, if you look, you’ll notice the fact that the roof line of the school buildings mimics the mountain formations around Nuuk. This shape stops snow from settling on the slanted skylights, too,” according to Janina Zerbe.
At the same time, the school blends in with its surroundings in Nuuk, where one end of the school site meets relatively tall buildings close to Nuuk Town Hall.
“We worked on gradually scaling the buildings down from the town centre out towards the landscape of Narsarsuaq, the ‘Great Plain’,” Janina Zerbe comments.
The different building sizes are also designed to reflect the different school classes, so the smallest children – right down to kindergarten level – start in the smallest buildings and gradually move up into the larger buildings.
“It’s important for children to be able to identify with the spatial scale of the learning environment,” Janina Zerbe says.