School lives on as village community centre

When the school in the Danish village Nr. Vium closed, the local residents bought the buildings without any plan for what they would do with them. With Erik Brandt Dam Arkitekter as committed consultants, they created an award-winning multi-purpose cultural centre, which is now a meeting place for the village.

For the architect, the process involved listening to the local community and allowing the school’s qualities to live on in the new building. Demolishing walls, new windows, bright colours and retaining the original doors and tiles were all part of the solution.

Nr. Vium Sports and Cultural Centre is the story about a modern meeting place that was born of hard work and unfailing commitment. About a parish and the constructive approach of the locals when their local school was merged with the school in the neighbouring parish. About architecture that has been given a new lease of life, even though much of the old architecture has been preserved.

‘Village in the School’, as the project is called, won the Danish Retrofit Award 2017. Among other things, the jury highlighted the fact that, despite the extensive transformation, the project has preserved the school’s historical significance for local citizens. 

It all started when citizens in Nr. Vium bought the former school without knowing what to do with it. At the same time, the Danish Foundation for Culture and Sports Facilities (Lokale og Anlaegsfonden) ran an architectural competition to source ideas for injecting life into former primary and secondary schools around Denmark. This led to the matching of Erik Brandt Dam Arkitekter and the citizens in Nr. Vium.

– We spent three months developing the project together with a group of four citizens. The new building had to be a good business case, and financially viable from day one. We were therefore able to convince the municipality that the local daycare institution should move into the new building, so there was a permanent tenant from the outset, and also so the building is being used from very early in the morning, explains Erik Brandt Dam.

Citizens’ own project

Throughout the process, the team of architects listened carefully and respectfully to the views of the locals rather than presenting a finished project.

– For many years, the school was a meeting place in the parish, so it was important for us to work with the existing facilities and the mental values in the building. The citizens’ group needed to feel that the building was theirs rather than a brand new concept served to them by us. In this way, the value of the new building is more strongly rooted in the community, says Erik Brandt Dam.

Transforming the school into a multi-purpose cultural centre required several radical changes. Among other things, a separate headmaster’s house and an adjoining village hall were demolished.

– First, there were too many square metres, and second, we wanted to create greater coherence by removing buildings that faced away from the main building, says Erik Brandt Dam, adding:

– The principle now is that all the buildings face one another and are part of several things at the same time. The kindergarten children can look through the glass walls, and watch a meeting being held by Arla. It’s all about transparency and neighbourliness.

Transformation without revolution

In the new building, an extra multi-purpose hall has successfully been created by removing one storey and several classrooms. Old doors have been preserved, and in several places have been fitted with a protective barrier, so they now function as French balconies overlooking the halls. Signs, tiles and sinks from the old school have also been preserved.

– We wanted to show that the structure of a former school can be transformed without extensive conversion work. For example, it was surprising to see how the old school concealed a completely new hall, which we could reveal by demolishing a few walls and a deck, says Erik Brandt Dam.

He and the local citizens decided to involve the visual artist Malene Bach in the project to ensure impartiality in the choice of colours.

– The school originally had lots of colours. However, they didn’t go that well together, but nevertheless we could see that they made a positive contribution. Malene Bach has used a palette of bold colours from the 1960s across all the materials in the new building, and in this way created a clear identity, says Erik Brandt Dam.

Ceilings with authenticity and nerve

The colour scheme has also included the linoleum floors and their interaction with the Troldtekt ceilings. For example, black ceilings were selected to contrast with the red flooring, while elsewhere the Troldtekt ceilings are natural wood, thereby helping to create a sense of calm. Troldtekt acoustic panels were a deliberate choice, because Troldtekt integrates well with the rest of the project, says Erik Brandt Dam:

– Using a building for sports, parties, meetings and as a childcare institution involves certain acoustic challenges which we wanted to address without having to plaster the rooms completely in sound-absorbing material. There is something honest and straightforward about Troldtekt acoustic panels, which goes really well in this context. You can see what Troldtekt is, and it has authenticity and nerve. 


Architect Erik Brandt Dam.

Facts: Nr. Vium Sports and Cultural Centre


  • Ceiling panels: Troldtekt acoustic panels
  • Colour: Natural wood & black 207
  • Structure: Ultrafine (1.0 mm wood wool)
  • Edge design: Square edge, K0, installed with Troldtekt screws

Read more about the project in Troldtekt's reference section >