The project involved combining a high school and a technical college. Merging two buildings into one and for two educational cultures to share facilities. A great architectural challenge, to which an elegant and simple solution has been found by allowing the two wings to literally overlap.
The two schools in Kristiansand are sited perpendicular to each other while also functioning independently of each other. To physically link the two buildings, it made sense to extend the two school buildings to create a right angle which would house the shared facilities. To avoid this very mechanical solution, which would not necessarily contribute to uniting the two cultures, the winning proposal has gone a step further and created a greater overlap between the buildings. A double overlap also affects the interior planes, with the specific crossing-over of the wings providing the building with a new architectural identity which is further enhanced by interlacing horizontal bands.
Five architectural firms were invited to participate in the competition, one of them Danish. The Danish architects CEBRA won the contract by looking at what the project was essentially about – combining two schools. CEBRA was established in 2001, since when the firm has designed buildings for numerous educational institutions and worked on all project scales, while always taking a very open approach. The young architectural firm’s enthusiasm for its work was recognised in 2008 when it was awarded the Nykredit Architectural Prize for its contribution to renewing the Danish architectural tradition.
The architect Mikkel Frost from CEBRA says the following about the KKG project in Kristiansand: “We can see that the space is used and functions incredibly well. When sitting at the drawing board, you envisage users behaving in certain ways and acting out certain preferences, but it is only once the building stands completed that you find out whether your assumptions were correct. It was therefore almost something of a relief to see the space being used on graduation day, when families and friends come to see the students receiving their certificates, hear speeches and to enjoy the music being performed by the students. It has also been satisfying to observe the students on a daily basis, sitting immersed in their studies at the tables or hanging out on the long staircase.”
One of the reasons why the new rooms work equally well for doing homework and performing music is the excellent acoustics, which is primarily thanks to the incorporation of Troldtekt panels in the design. The sound-absorbing properties of Troldtekt are outstanding, and Troldtekt is often used in educational contexts where it is crucial for learning that pupils and students are not disturbed by excessive noise. CEBRA has frequently used Troldtekt in their buildings, from sports halls and kindergartens to clothes shops. Troldtekt is produced in Denmark from wood and cement, and is supplied in a variety of surface qualities and every conceivable colour. In this school building, three different shades have been combined to emphasise the idea of interweaving bands.
A place to meet
The added extension houses a large canteen for both schools which doubles as a venue for large gatherings. A wide section of staircase constitutes an important element in the room and, in addition to providing seating, encourages greater social interaction and interlacing of the two schools.
From the staircase seating, students look out towards a green area to the south. The staircase also functions as a way of gradating the terrain around the buildings and helps to express the idea of horizontal bands merging. In the extension, there is also a shared auditorium and a library on the upper balcony. The overlap and the uninterrupted lines running through the buildings are reflected in the exterior through large projections and overhangs, and by designing the entrance plane with parking to the south and outside staircase seating towards the east. The dynamics are enhanced by overlapping horizontal facade bands.
Binding everything together
The school’s new centre has a strong graphic design, which extends into the existing wings. This is achieved through the use of Troldtekt acoustic panels, which continue from the new part of the building into the existing sections. The ceiling panels are matched in several shades of grey that run as parallel bands along the ceilings, which also have different lighting fittings.
Likewise, dark and light floor surfaces express attractive contrasts while also providing a sense of orientation in the rooms. The delicate interplay between the surfaces in the building produces a very attractive sense of coherence and balance between the hard, reflective floor surfaces and the sound-absorbing and more finely textured surfaces of the Troldtekt acoustic panels. As an extra finesse, the architects have been inspired by the beat art adorning the school’s walls. The stripy art style invites a playful approach with all the colours and surfaces of the horizontal and vertical planes and gives the ‘new’ school a lively and light-hearted touch which will hopefully motivate the students to learn.