There's an amazing new sports hall at Gammel Hellerup high school just north of Copenhagen, but you might miss it at first glance. Acclaimed international architecture firm BIG cleverly slipped a multifunctional gymnasium beneath the existing courtyard, blending a social arena up top with a new sports facility down below. The end result seamlessly blends a new, environmentally friendly facility into the school's existing architectural framework, whilst adding an exciting and dramatic hill-shaped social gathering space.
“Rather than placing the hall outside the school and spread the social life further,” says founding director Bjarke Ingels, a former student of the high school, “we have created a new focal point and link between the school’s existing facilities.”
The Gammel Hellerup Gymnasium’s vaulted roof, built with uniquely curved timber beams, doubles as an interior and exterior skin that also provides support for the new courtyard deck that swells into a small hill above. The sculpted courtyard features untreated oak wood and custom-designed white enamel-coated steel benches that light up with LEDs, which serve as the only sources of illumination for the courtyard at night. In a nod to Ingels’ old high school math teacher and the axiom “form follows function,” the design team derived the geometry of the curved roof from the mathematical trajectory of a thrown ball.
The sunken 1,100 sq. meter sports hall was lowered five meters below the center of the school’s courtyard, and it can also be used for graduation ceremonies and other social events. The facility’s placement underground ensures a comfortable indoor climate, with heating generated by solar panels installed around existing buildings. The roof’s lattice pattern also allows daylight to penetrate down into the hall, reducing the need for artificial light.
Images courtesy of BIG