WAN Education Award 2016 Winner

SOUTH HARBOUR SCHOOL, Copenhagen, Denmark
JJW Architects

Copenhagen is growing at a fast pace and with over 1.000 new citizens per month the city needs to expand school facilities – that was the starting point for the school project. Furthermore the Municipality wanted a new school that is an active part of the new neighbourhood in the former industrial area that is currently undergoing a transition.


The result is South Harbour School: a new public school with a maritime and science profile. The School invites the neighbours in, reaches out to the city and becomes an active and socially sustainable part of the new neighbourhood.


Central to the design is the understanding of schools as places for learning processes as well as social exchange. The ground floor is the schools natural meeting place, and is developed as a mixture between an aula and a city square. The public has access to intriguing outdoor areas that enhance movement and play. The concept of the social space addresses everything from the overall school community over group assemblies to one to one meetings between classmates. This results in tailor-made meeting places that accommodate specific needs and abilities of the students. Roofs are activated, enhance movement and play and are accessible to the public. In due time the public will also gain access to classrooms dedicated to specific subjects such as music and cooking classes.

A large outdoor staircase connects the school with the water that becomes an extra classroom. The urban theme is continued indoors where cloakrooms and other storage facilities are designed as small houses that also become intimate meeting places.



Surprises and new experiences are central concepts for the school. On each floor plans change and the heights of the rooms vary throughout. These scale changes are central to the project where high ceiling open rooms are combined with more intimate, low ceiling spaces. The design also features a variety of horizontal and vertical connections and spaces, so that students, teachers and visitors are surprised, challenged and stimulated as they move around indoors and outdoors. Therefore dualities such as activity/rest, light/dark, warm/chilly are part of the design concept. The South Harbour School provides many different spaces and environments that support the children’s learning processes and social abilities.



The school uses a number of technical solutions in order to create a good indoor climate and an acoustically controlled environment, while keeping energy consumption at a minimal and sustainable level.


The School building is “flushed” every night with an automated system that opens selected doors and windows in facades and inner walls. This way the air inside is completely renewed for next morning and natural ventilation is incorporated as a supplement to the mechanical ventilation. Furthermore various energy solutions such as solar cells, high-efficiency isolation, density, intelligent lightning control with more are incorporated into the overall design. The green roof adds to the overall sustainability of the project. Since various studies show that good acoustics have a positive impact on students learning processes and wellbeing, acoustics have been one of the major focus areas throughout the project.


South Harbour School has won two of Denmark’s prestigious building awards: “Building of the Year 2015″ and “School Building of the Year 2015”.