HEERUP SCHOOL FOR KIDS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
Transformation and extension
Transformation and extension
Heerup School reflects, embraces, and gives space to the minds of kids with special needs. Here, space is created for those children that need something special to get through the day. Who need something different to what we would consider the “normal” school.
Heerup School is a special school for children, aged 6-16, with pervasive mental developmental disorders.
The project is a transformation and extension to an existing school building from 1949. The existing building had classic long corridors, various levels, and evenly distributed classrooms. It was transformed and expanded to accommodate the demands of a school for kids with special needs. The consideration for the particularly sensitive children was thought into the building, so that the children have an optimal framework for well-being and learning.
The main architectural intervention of the transformation has been to turn the existing, classic building composition upside down. The dark and long corridors are gone, and now replaced by larger and more flexible group rooms connected by a new, light filled zone for movement (the connection zone,) that extends around and embraces the existing school yard.
The new extension is easier and quicker for students and teachers to access the school’s functions and find their way around. As well as opening up between functions, the new building also creates room for play, learning and other supportive teaching. There is allocated spaces for both seeking protection and being alone, but also to easily access the opportunity of exploring communities in various degrees. Throughout the building, built-in niches of varying sizes have been placed, enabling the individual student to withdraw from the community and find peace in a more intimate space.
The movement zone has direct access to a central, enclosed courtyard filled with trees, a green amphitheater and garden beds along the facades - a quiet oasis where both children and adults can take a break or bring lessons out into the open air. Besides the central atrium courtyard, the new building volumes form small intimate ‘pockets -courtyards” that connect to the individual group rooms, and work as an extra break-out space for the children.
In the architectural design process, focus has been on the children’s special needs and challenges. Themes such as readability, variety, flexibility, and transitions have been the focal point for the transformation of the school, both in the overall disposition and in the choice of materials and colors. The philosophy has been to focus especially on how high-quality architecture with attention to tactility, detail and the understanding of sensitive, special and beautiful minds can make a difference for teachers, kids and their families and eventually for society.
The first report from the school one year after moving into the new facilities, shows that confrontations between kids and teachers and sick days for teachers has fallen dramatically!