Hessenwaldschule is a cooperative school in Weiterstadt, Germany, home to 700 pupils from the surrounding area. With a focus on individual learning and support in a flexible, open environment, the school makes use of the latest pedagogical techniques to create the best possible educational program for its students.
Create a design-led building for student-focused learning.
When it was decided to replace the Hessenwaldschule’s old building, Stuttgart-based architectural firm Wulf Architekten was challenged to come up with a design that would achieve three principal objectives:
- Support the school’s open approach to teaching
- Provide top-class energy performance and sustainability credentials
- Be both inspirational and contemporary in design, while fitting perfectly into the school’s beautiful natural surroundings.
Shared open spaces built around daylight.
A large, central atrium connects three rectangular pavilions, or “Lernhäusern” (learning houses), which are home to different school departments and educational levels. This open layout allows students to switch easily between levels. The three-story atrium is an open space that is flooded with natural daylight and fresh air from the roof. Here, students of different ages, levels, and departments are encouraged to come together.
Daylight and fresh air are delivered to the atrium via six long lights comprising a total of 84 VELUX Modular Skylights. Wulf Architekten decided to use VELUX Modular Skylights primarily due to their unique design. Despite their low profile, all mechanical elements are contained within the frames, creating a beautiful uniform finish when they are placed together. All 84 modules were fully installed in just 4 days. The resultant indoor climate is ideal allowing students to work comfortably.
Even when it is overcast outside the VELUX Modular Skylights provide plenty of even, diffused natural light. Daylight is not just about aesthetics either. Today, children spend up to 90% of their time indoors, and studies have shown that optimal daylight and ventilation conditions indoors can boost children’s learning abilities by up to 15%.
The school meets passive house standards and the skylights form an integral part of the building’s overall energy performance. The VELUX Modular Skylights create solar gain in the winter, warming the air in the atrium, and subsequently the pavilions. In the summer, meanwhile, the skylight modules can be opened to allow warm, stale air to escape and cool, fresh air to enter.
Completed in 2016, the concept is an architecturally modern yet extremely sensitive approach to the needs of the students. With Hessenwaldschule, Wulf Architekten has managed to demonstrate that the requirements of progressive forms of learning can be combined with the demands of cutting-edge modern architecture. The resulting school complex is outstanding, and the entire school community of students, parents and teachers are hugely positive and excited about their new school.
VELUX offers 2 e-books related to the topic, which can be downloaded on the following links:
Building a better school: Six ways to help our children learn
Designing great schools: 8 examples of how skylights improve learning