A school in Telemark represents a modern interpretation of the traditional Norwegian loft building
AR School Awards 2015 Shortlisted
Nestled away in Telemark, close to the southern edge of Norway stands Åmot School by L2 Arkitekter. Telemark is renowned for its old farms, canals and most importantly its ‘loft’ buildings, which date back to the 12th century.
L2 Arkitekter have created a school that both embraces the vernacular architecture of the area while playfully distorting it. It was vital that the project had a small footprint and maximised the external play areas outside the building, and so the modesty of Telemark’s traditional ‘loft’ buildings acted as both a major inspiration and a solution when it came to the school’s organisation, materiality and form.
The two-storey school includes an overhanging first floor, creating a covered play area beneath for the pupils, and a long gallery space with an external staircase leading up to it – a typical feature in loft buildings.
A large atrium space is carved out at the centre of the plan, and dictates the major circulation routes through the building. Housing a small amphitheatre, during peak periods of the day this space is flooded with the pupils’ chatter and footsteps as they move around the building. Direct access is provided to the upper floors where the learning spaces, classrooms and the library are located.
Externally, the building continues to draw influence from the traditional loft with a gabled roof and wood and stone construction. An element of hierarchy can be seen in the architect’s choice of materiality when looking at the ground and first floor. As the first floor is a cantilevering box, it seems fitting for it to appear quite ‘light’, clad in dark-stained Norwegian spruce in contrast to the ground floor below that supports it. The Steni facade panels create a solid feel to the ground floor and continue into the main spaces combining with the large glass panels, blurring the boundary between inside and out.
In reinvigorating a centuries-old building type, L2 Arkitekter have created a compact school with a strong communal feel, providing ample space for 160 students and 25 employees to learn and work harmoniously.