Sølvgade School

Sølvgade School in Copenhagen, Denmark by C. F. Møller Architects, 2012

Like a lot of architecture built in European cities, the six-story addition to Copenhagen's Sølvgade School -- the oldest school in Denmark -- must contend with history while dealing with contemporary concerns. C. F. Møller Architects had to address the mid-19th-century architecture of the school but also the nearby Nyboder, the colorful naval barracks of King Christian IV. The architects describe their extension as one "true to the surroundings" but with "a modernistic twist."

The photo at top illustrates how the architects balanced the historical and the contemporary through the scale, massing, and facades of the 2,400-sm (25,800-sf) building (the architects are also responsible for the renovation of the existing school, which the addition more than doubles). While the addition does not physically touch the original school, which occupies the middle of the block, the new corner building responds to the street wall and continues the cornice and roof line of its neighbor on the west. Yet, turning the corner, the solid facade gives way to an all-glass elevation that also expresses the contextual but somewhat odd slope of the top floor.

The windows punched into the whitewashed walls -- a treatment that covers three of the facades, including the side facing the old building (photo at left) -- certainly stand out from the historical context, but it is the colorful east elevation that provides the modernstic twist and gives the school a strong contemporary image. The colors work in a couple ways: They cover the deep recesses in the facade perpendicular to the glass and extend to the inner walls of the double-skin facade. This results in a rainbow-like jigsaw of different-sized rectangles across the elevation, which shifts from glassy during the day to punched-windows in the evening, the latter stemming from the double-facade's inner layer.

Color is not limited to the facades. It is also found in the various circulation spaces, which vary their surfaces like the facade's larger shadowboxes. More than giving the Sølvgade School a contemporary means of branding, the colors create a lively environment for the students. Studies have show how color plays an important role in influencing mood, attention, and other psychological factors. Today, with so many distractions available for tech-minded students, it's important for educational environments to elevate the spirit of students and work toward focusing their attention on the learning at hand.

Photographs are by Adam Mørk, courtesy of C.F. Møller Architects.