New school at Isfjorden brings community together

The architects at TNT Nuuk have reinterpreted the Greenlandic building style with a cross-shaped primary and lower secondary school which overlooks the fjord and the mountains. Inside, there is ample space for learning as well as for hosting events for the local Ilulissat community. The fantastic acoustics in the large rooms have been praised after the opening of the school.

Troldtekt, Ilulissat School
Photo: TNT Nuuk A/S

Despite its status as one of the largest buildings in Ilulissat, the school blends in elegantly with the smaller houses in the town. The red fibre-cement facade and the modern take on the traditional Greenlandic saddle roof tie in well with the surroundings.

“The school is shaped like a cross, pointing towards the fjord for which the town is known. It has been important for us to create a sense of space around the outdoor activities, and open up the school towards the landscape in which it sits,” says Helena Lennert. She works as an architect at TNT Nuuk, which has offices in Nuuk and Copenhagen.

“We have devoted considerable effort to the roof, which serves a practical function in terms of snow and drainage while having to match the look of the classic saddle roofs. We therefore chose diagonal shapes, which create an interesting architectural interplay between the surfaces. In fact, I think that they are the first diagonal roofs in Greenland,” adds Helena Lennert.

A multifunctional school
The old school in Ilulissat was fairly dilapidated and riddled with mould. Refurbishing the institution would have been too expensive, so Greenland’s Self-Government granted funding for a brand new building, which was completed on time and opened in August 2017.

The 6,300-square-metre school accommodates 400 pupils, and also houses a number of public functions: a library, a dental clinic, a special-needs centre, a workshop and a hall for local events.

“The building sits on a raised section of rock where the landscape is on several levels. The school itself occupies one floor, while the other functions are grouped in the basement. The main hall is at the heart of the building, and serves as its focal point. It is possible to completely close off the hall from the rest of the school, which makes it possible to hold events there without disturbing lessons.” 

“Even though most of the rooms are about the same size, there is considerable variation in the design of the roof. Thanks to its gentle inclination, you can sit undisturbed in the corners of the large rooms. In addition, there are small galleried areas which the pupils can use. This provides a good contrast between spatial elements and intimacy,” explains Helena Lennert.

Focus on sound and light
Throughout the school – from the school offices to the main hall and the classrooms – white-painted Troldtekt acoustic panels have been installed on the ceilings.

“Everyone comments on the superb acoustics created by the Troldtekt panels. The teachers were particularly excited to see whether the size of the rooms would present a challenge in terms of the acoustics, but they are very impressed with the result. At the same time, the Troldtekt panels add a textural quality to the ceilings, contributing more to the interior environment than if they were simply clean, smooth surfaces,” says Helena Lennert.

Along the angles of the roofs, light strips have been installed between the Troldtekt panels as, like the acoustics, lighting has also been a key focus area.

“We are north of the Arctic Circle, so there are periods with midnight sun as well as constant darkness. During the winter months, it’s essential to have good lighting, and we’ve therefore gone for strip lights between the acoustic panels, as well as lots of large pendants,” says Helena Lennert.