Fjelltun skole - how nature can lead to new ideas and designs.


Fjelltun skole - how nature can lead to new ideas and designs.

Using nature as inspiration during the design process of a building is not uncommon. The shape of the landscape can lead to new ideas and visions, blurring the boundaries between inside and outside. In autumn 2022, Fjelltun School in Jørpeland was completed, using nature as both an inspiration and a guide during the process. We talked to Marthe Schjelderup at Arkipartner about Fjelltun School, where the slopes and rolling watercourses of the landscape were a major inspiration for the design of the school.

Fjelltun School has a number of elements inspired by its surrounding nature. Could you tell us a bit about the building itself, and how the design came to?

The landscape at Jørpeland is characterized by the mountain slopes and the stream that runs along the schoolyard, and this combined with the sloping terrain provides a unique outdoor environment for Fjelltun. This gives the site its character and quality, and it has been a goal to utilize this in the design of the new school. The main concept has been based on creating a coherent, common area indoors that becomes a natural meeting place, which we have chosen to call the "heart room", where the slope of the landscape and the movements of the stream have been a great inspiration.

The heart room itself is divided into diffrent zones with the use of height differences, which provides opportunities for co-utilization, but also makes it possible to divide the different zones/levels as needed. The heart of the building consists of the library, canteen and amphitheatre with stage, where the entire surface facing the schoolyard is an open glass facade.

The school building consists of two volumes that follow the slope of the terrain. The two volumes overlap, and the center of the building is designed as a connection between the two volumes. We have worked hard to ensure that the amphitheater, also known as the reading mountain, inside the heart room also continues out into the schoolyard to create a good connection between the indoor and outdoor spaces.

The sloping terrain also characterises the schoolyard and acts as continuation of the levels and zones used on the reading mountain.

The stream you mentioned earlier, how did the idea of using it in the project come about?

One of the first things we noticed when we visited the school was the stream that runs through the schoolyard. The stream was not fenced, which was a pleasant surprise. It was fascinating that the children could play in and around the stream, and we wanted to continue and enhance this quality. The stream and the sloping terrain became the inspiration for the heart room and the playfulness that we imagined this room would represent.


Is there any difference in working with schools, as opposed to, say, housing or other types of buildings?

Designing school buildings is completely different from designing housing and other types of buildings. During the design process of schools, it is very important to have a good dialogue with the end-user; the school itself. The people working in the school have a lot of valuable information about what works in an educational context, and it is important that we organise the building in a way that makes it easy and intuitive to use. There must be space for large gatherings and communities, but also for more intimate and quiet zones. Good quality materials are important, as these are buildings that will stand for many years and need to withstand continuous, hard use. Natural materials such as wood, brick and similar materials provide warmth and nice surfaces.

Was there any part of the project that proved particularly challenging?

One of the things we put a lot of effort in to get right is the layout of the amphitheatre and its transition to an outdoor amphitheatre, as well as the adaptation of the glass field and the integrated steel profiles that support the glass. Also, the level difference between the building and the amphitheatre where a big challenge, but we worked very well together in the design team and managed to find a good solution.

Finally, is there any part of the project you are particularly pleased with?

What we are most pleased with is that we managed to create a natural extension of the amphitheatre/reading mountain indoors and let it continue out into the school's courtyard. We are also pleased that we were able to create a roof terrace, so that the roof is not just an unused area but instead can be utilised as a teaching space. Finally, we are also very pleased with the municipality's choice of materials for the facades and common areas and the high quality that they have chosen to incorporate into the project.

Architectt: Arkipartner AS
Constructor: O. Torjussen & Sønner AS
SAPA-customer: Time Aluminium AS
Facade: SAPA 4150, SAPA 4150 SX
Windows: SAPA 1086
Doors: SAPA 2086, SAPA 2086 EI30
Photographer: Hugo Lütcherath