Tonstad School, Norway

Photo: Tommy Kosior, Troldtekt A/S

Both design and materials give the school a very modern expression but, in reality, it is a successful and thorough refurbishment and extension of the original school dating from 1965.

The newly-inaugurated school offers a multitude of architectural points of interest, externally as well as internally. Several internal details are especially aesthetic with wood playing a prominent role. The challenging task of refurbishing and extending while also creating a coherent whole would seem to have generated a series of remarkable solutions.

Refurbishment accounts for 60% of the project while the extension, including a new training pool accounts for the remainder 40%. According to the architect, Knut Brandsberg-Dahl from the Norwegian firm of architects, Filter arkitekter as, the old school has played a key role in designing the new concept. Administration and work areas for teaching staff are located in the refurbished wing while basic teaching rooms are located around a central core of group rooms and subject teaching rooms in the new building.

Wood Creating a Nordic Atmosphere
From the outside, the school and the baths appear relatively tranquil with dark façade panels and recessed window areas with oak panels. The use of colours in selected areas brightens up the façade while indicating that this is place for children. Inside, the school appears very spacious, bright and friendly. Several surfaces are clad with birch veneer contrasted by white woodwork – quality workmanship and beautiful to look at. The design appears both classic Nordic and modern, resulting in a coherent integration of the new and old school. Parts of the concrete construction from the existing building have been preserved and trimmed back to the original concrete, which has then been insulated. The baths have been refurbished and a training pool has been added.

Neatly Integrated Lighting
A good way of unifying the school’s new and old spaces is to let the choice of materials create a common theme. This has been done in several ways at Tonstad School and it works incredibly well. Troldtekt acoustic ceiling tiles have been used in the baths, the training pool, the wellness pool, the cloakroom and foyer as well as the gymnasium. Installing Troldtekt ceilings will absorb sound rather than reflect it, thereby improving the acoustics considerably. This is particularly important in areas with numerous hard surfaces such as swimming pools.

In an architectural context, the Troldtekt ceiling enhances the refurbished part of Tonstad Baths with a simplicity and tranquility well-suited to the space. Lighting has been installed where walls and ceiling meet, setting off the ceiling as a surface in its own right. Ceiling tiles have been removed at random and replaced by glass tiles, above which a light source provides pleasant and diffuse lighting.

According to the architect, this detail was developed in conjunction with the contractor, and he goes on to describe something that is hidden to the spectator, namely that white tiles have been used in the recess above to provide optimal light reflection. In the new training pool with lanes and a diving platform, the space has been designed differently taking into consideration the extra height needed for diving: the ceiling surfaces are broken, with low ceilings along the edges of the pool and windows placed high up in deep recesses in the concrete wall.

Acoustic and handsome solutions
In this project, the acoustics is not a ‘problem’ which will be dealt with later. It is part and parcel of the entire design process. The architect, Knut Brandsberg-Dahl says,’ Troldtekt was chosen because we wanted a robust and durable ceiling tile which will tolerate humidity – and we like the look of these tiles’. Also, the acoustic solution fit well into the architects’ profile which centres its focus on sustainable and environmentally friendly solutions.

The walls in both the training pool and the existing baths have been carefully detailed to ensure adequate acoustics. The walls have been clad with wooden strips installed on top of an acoustic liner plus 50mm rockwool. The spacing of the strips on the lower part of the wall is quite close - to avoid visitors poking their fingers in between them and perforating the acoustic liner behind. The strips have been installed in the shape of a wave which is repeated in the school part of the project.