Do high school reunions really exist outside of television and film? If so, Bjarke Ingels is showing up to his next one with the best (or second best) humblebrag ever: “Oh yeah, I’m an architect. I built that.” *Casually gestures to the undulating blob in the middle of the school courtyard.*
Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has just completed a new activities hall for the Old Hellerup High School, the architect’s old stomping ground. Located slightly north of Copenhagen, the school comprises an ensemble of stately yellow brick buildings. These are configured around a central court, which Ingels, along with collaborators CG Jensen + EKJ + Grontmij, has filled with a new multifunctional structure he likens to a “molehill.”
The amorphous addition bobs up and down, with contours and looping benches that accommodate lazing students. Circular seats stud the wood-slat surface where lunching students can congregate. The playground-like installation actually conceals a submerged gymnasium and social space, where prom king and queen–or their Danish equivalents, if there are such things–will hold court every spring. The underside of the roof produces an interesting vaulting effect that, when lit, activates what’s essentially a simple concrete box.
Initially, the addition was meant to be constructed adjacent to the school complex, so as not to disrupt the harmony of its architecture composition. But this act of “decentralization,” as BIG calls it, did not sit well with Bjarke. “Rather than placing the hall outside the school–and spread the social life further–we have created a new focal point and link between the school’s existing facilities,” he says in a statement. The new structure concentrates and circumscribes social activity within school grounds, while the swooping profile preserves through-views from one building to another.
Bjarke goes on to offer a winsome inspiration for the project’s curving roofline. A geometric formula was generated for the ballistic arc, which was illustrated in a textbook manner that the architect says pays “homage” to his old math teacher. Teacher’s pet.