Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), was commissioned to design a new gymnasium for Ingels’s alma mater, Gammel Hellerup High School, in Hellerup, Denmark. In order to preserve natural light for the buildings surrounding the school’s central open courtyard, BIG chose to excavate it and place the new gym below grade. And with the gym’s curved roof (Ingels used the formula for a ballistic arc as inspiration), the underground sports hall feels much more spacious while supporting programming above.
The gymnasium ceiling achieves its curvature with deep glulam timber beams that allow its roof to expand upward into the school’s rectangular courtyard. The roof forms an artificial mini-hill clad in untreated oak decking that serves as an outdoor gathering place. Beneath the roof, BIG deployed a staccato arrangement of linear fluorescent luminaires between the glulam beams as the primary light source for the space. The roof’s edge becomes bench seating along the courtyard perimeter above. Strategically placed gaps in the decking at the courtyard level allow indirect daylight to filter through skylights that form a clerestory at the upper edge of the multipurpose hall below.
The hall’s clerestory lighting reduces energy consumption by creating a halo of natural light around the electrically lit ceiling, and washes the concrete retaining walls of the 5,200-square-foot underground space with a soft glow. The lighting system features daylighting controls, and is partially powered by photovoltaic panels.
In the courtyard above, BIG integrated white LED fixtures into the undersides of white steel furniture to illuminate the sloping roof at night. A circular bench, with the same integrated fixtures, winds down the sloping roof, casting a circular glow under it.
The new gym and its rooftop, affectionately dubbed “the molehill,” have become successful, luminous social hubs. And BIG has earned extra credit in the form of second commission from the school.
The perfect integration of light and architecture.
A clear, legible, and consistent design.
The space is terrific; you don’t see the fixtures, only the light.
The color temperature difference that indicates daylight is brilliant.
Project Gammel Hellerup High School Gymnasium, Hellerup, Denmark
Entrant BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group)
Owner/Client Gammel Hellerup High School, Hellerup, Denmark
Architect/Lighting Designer BIG, Valby, Denmark
Team Members Bjarke Ingels, Finn Nørkjær, Ole Schrøder, Ole Elkjær-Larsen, Frederik Lyng, Christian Alvarez Gomez, Jeppe Ecklon, Rune Hansen, Thomas Juul-Jensen, Narisara Ladawal Schröder, Jakob Lange, Xu Li, Riccardo Mariano, Henrick Poulsen, Dennis Rasmussen, Ana Merino, Anders Hjortnæs, Gül Ertekin, Hjalti Gestsson, Jacob Paarsgaard Thomsen, Jan Magasanik, Ji Young Yoon, Michael Schønemann Jensen, Snorre Emanuel Nash Jørgensen, Vincent He
Photographer Jens Lindhe
Project Size 11,840 square feet
Project Cost $8.9 million
Lighting Cost $84,000
Watts per Square Foot 0.6
Code Compliance BR 10 (Danish Energy Code)
Manufacturers Delux, Sandlux