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Secondary school in Sauland, PPAG architects, Photo: Wolfgang Thaler

All in a cluster: Norwegian secondary school by PPAG architects and Helen & Hard

Building the secondary school was a big project for the small community in southern Norway; accordingly a duo of architectural offices from Austria and Norway offering expertise in educational buildings and timber construction was enlisted for its implementation. Inspired by local typologies, PPAG and Helen & Hard devised the school building in the form of a compact village.

The school consists of several two-storey volumes joined together in village-like fashion, and at the same time enables access from all directions. A sports and multipurpose hall rounds off the buildings. The facades of the solid timber ensemble are all clad in vertical wood slats solely interspersed by aluminium-framed windows. Outdoor staircases provide the upper storey classrooms direct access to the outdoors.

In addition to offices, a library, kitchen and canteen, the individual volumes of the secondary school contain varied classrooms organised around a central forum that forms a link between the two storeys and the individual classrooms. The communal area with its broad flight of stairs and sitting steps not only serves circulation but also acts as a continuation of the classrooms connected to it through large windows, in this way providing a flexible space for pedagogical use. Plus the focal point of the cluster school is also a place for students to socialise, withdraw into private niches for concentrated work or simply enjoy their breaks. Loud functions such as workshops and music rooms are accommodated in the structural concrete core of the education building.

Like the exterior elevations, most of the interior surfaces are lined in wood. In combination with the light-coloured walls, floors with integrated heating and bright colour accents, the result is a warm and pleasant atmosphere conducive to learning. Fixtures and structural components find varied use by the students, making the building itself – as the architects put it – a “pedagogical tool”.

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