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.

Jury Comments
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.

A staccato arrangement of linear fluorescents highlights the ceiling curvature of the gymnasium.
© Jens Lindhe A staccato arrangement of linear fluorescents highlights the ceiling curvature of the gymnasium.

The roof of the gymnasium also serves as a social gathering space in the school's courtyard. Photovoltaic panels mounted on the surrounding rooftops partially power the gymnasium's electric lighting requirements.
© Jens Lindhe The roof of the gymnasium also serves as a social gathering space in the school's courtyard. Photovoltaic panels mounted on the surrounding rooftops partially power the gymnasium's electric lighting requirements.

Gaps between decking members at the roof edge allow light to filter through skylights beneath the roof and into the gymnasium below.
© Jens Lindhe Gaps between decking members at the roof edge allow light to filter through skylights beneath the roof and into the gymnasium below.

Although the gymnasium is below grade, it receives daylight through skylights at its perimeter.
© Jens Lindhe Although the gymnasium is below grade, it receives daylight through skylights at its perimeter.

Linear fluorescent fixtures are mounted between the glulam beams and provide a contrast in color temperature with the daylight at the clerestory perimeter.
© Jens Lindhe Linear fluorescent fixtures are mounted between the glulam beams and provide a contrast in color temperature with the daylight at the clerestory perimeter.
Lighting integrated into the rooftop furniture allows the courtyard's utility to extend beyond sunset.
© Jens Lindhe Lighting integrated into the rooftop furniture allows the courtyard's utility to extend beyond sunset.

LED luminaires, mounted to the underside of the outdoor furnishings, cast light onto the gymnasium's roof at night.
© Jens Lindhe LED luminaires, mounted to the underside of the outdoor furnishings, cast light onto the gymnasium's roof at night.
Linear LEDs on the underside of one of the benches traces the undulating curvature of the roof.
© Jens Lindhe Linear LEDs on the underside of one of the benches traces the undulating curvature of the roof.

The edge of the gymnasium roof rises above ground level, to provide bench seating in the courtyard, which is supplemented with white furniture outfitted with LEDs.
© Jens Lindhe The edge of the gymnasium roof rises above ground level, to provide bench seating in the courtyard, which is supplemented with white furniture outfitted with LEDs.

An image of the gymnasium under construction.
Courtesy BIG An image of the gymnasium under construction.

The gymnasium receives daylighting through skylights that form a clerestory around the hall's perimeter.
© Jens Lindhe / Inset drawing by BIG The gymnasium receives daylighting through skylights that form a clerestory around the hall's perimeter.

Section diagram showing the formula for a ballistic arch, used as the loose inspiration for the curvature of the gymnasium roof.
Courtesy BIG Section diagram showing the formula for a ballistic arch, used as the loose inspiration for the curvature of the gymnasium roof.

Details
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

To see all of the other winners of the 2014 AL Light & Architecture Design Awards, click here.