Nærheden School was commended in the Civic & Community category AR Future Projects Award in 2019 at MIPIM
The future of learning
The new multipurpose school and communal house for learning in Høje-Taastrup municipality, in central Zealand can house 1500 students, it includes an integrated daycare, a sports hall and cultural facilities for the surrounding community. The architecture is designed to shape the future of learning, which means that the building itself works as a pedagogical tool, unfolding numerous possibilities for experimentation based on 21st century learning skills, defined as science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics. The overall structure is created as a grid, which can integrate a number of elements and functional requirements, without compromising the overall architectural concept. Outside, the structure weaves into the surrounding area with a variation of open, semi-open and closed features, creating a playful transparency that invites both nature and people inside. Here, the Learning Loop – a vertical connection of stairs and pathways for climbing – unites smaller and larger atriums, which offers access to exhibition areas, fab-labs and maker-spaces.
We’re getting a fantastic house for learning that meets our vision for a school with a great professional level of knowledge. A learning environment that stimulates and grants all children and young people, regardless of their background, the opportunity to explore ideas and give them an outlet to their creative instincts, as a part of solving real life problems.” – Michael Ziegel, Mayor of Høje-Taastrup Municipality.
Learning spaces based on 21st Century Learning Skills
Nærheden is the first public school in Denmark based on 21st Century Learning Skills – also known as STEAM (Science Technology Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics). Through dialogues with teachers, educators, the municipality and citizens, we have developed a pioneering new concept, where the architecture is a platform for a strong learning culture – a pedagogical tool designed to shape future learning. The school’s overall structure is created as a grid that can integrate elements and functional requirements without compromising the overall architectural concept. Outside, the structure weaves into the surrounding area with a variation of open, semi-open and closed features, creating a playful transparency that invites both nature and people inside. In the school architecture we’ve designed a Learning Loop – a vertical connection of stairs and pathways for climbing which unites smaller and larger atriums that give access to exhibition areas, fab-labs and makerspaces. The visual connections between the activities will be the driving force for synergy and meetings across the spaces. Students and teachers can thus be inspired by each other. The future students do not only need to navigate in the digital world – they are going to create it. That’s why the communal house Nærheden is designed as a tool that’s going to prepare for the future with a fluid work life and increased focus on new rapid development in technology skills. The ability to understand and navigate in this digital world will therefore be a key point for the teaching and therefor also in the architecture. Big screens in the façade inform about the activities in the house, and the entire building has access to the wireless network while fab-labs and makerspaces give students the opportunity to create digital models that can be 3D-printed and made into prototypes.
According to the judges of the competition, the main architectural concept grants the “possibility of a changing scenography, which turns the building itself into a tool for learning”. Together with teachers, nursery teachers, the municipality and the citizens we have developed a groundbreaking new concept where the architectural design is platform for fostering curiosity and a strong learning culture”.
Sustainability in the learning spaces
We’ve worked with a holistic sustainable design, where energy initiatives and architecture naturally blend together, and where the educational potential is visible in the architecture on several levels and therefore can easily be included in the teaching. Green areas in, on and around the building are a natural part of the learning environment of the future. The roof of the school is designed as a green and alternative outdoor space. With view to the sky, we designed room and space to observe weather conditions, make low energy experiments or grow vegetables in the greenhouses. In the landscape around the school, learning satellites make it possible for the students to explore nature and gain insight into topics such as biodiversity and wildlife. Understanding and learning about biodiversity and vegetation thus become visible educational landmarks that strengthen the learning house’s position as a sustainable power center. In the learning space, children gain insight into the building’s construction, technique and energy. Specifically, the school’s resource consumption can be read through units of measurement, while visible installations and constructions provide inspiration for experiments with sustainable initiatives. For example, in the workshops the pupils can make analogous studies with roots in the natural sciences. Here they can learn about waste management and low energy consumption experiments.
How the project addresses the Sustainable Development Goals
In the project we have worked with issues related to the Sustainable Development Goals. However, the project was not designed to address the global goals. We have worked with issues related to: SDG 3: Good Health and well-being, SDG 4: Quality education, SDG 7: Affordable and clean energy, SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth, SDG 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure, SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities, SDG 12: Responsible consumption and production, SDG 13: Climate action, SDG 14: Life below water, SDG 15: Life on land and SDG 17: Partnerships for the goals.