The Light Bulb, Aabenraa Adult Education Center, Jutland Architecture Images, Denmark Design, Architect

The Light Bulb, Aabenraa Jutland

27 Mar 2022

Location: Aabenraa, Jutland, southern Denmark

Design: ZENI arkitekter a/s

The Light Bulb Aabenraa Jutland

Photos: ZENI arkitekter a/s

The Light Bulb, Aabenraa – Jutland Adult Education Center

The Light Bulb, named after an old light bulb factory, that previously occupied part of the site, is a renovation and extension of an adult education center in the southern part of Jutland, Denmark.

The Light Bulb Aabenraa Jutland

The school has, with the new extension, finished in the autumn of 2017, doubled in size and has become a modern, school building, with a diverse variety of learning spaces.

The Light Bulb Aabenraa Jutland

The renovated school was originally built in the 1950s as a traditional, technical school. Gradually the school had become too small to accommodate the number of students, and it had grown increasingly out of touch with modern learning principles. As a consequence of this, the school purchased the neighboring building to the north, a historic light bulb factory, “Dansk Glødelampefabrik A/S”, to make an extension possible. The purchase and demolition of the historic factory was allowed under the condition, that the eastern facade of the factory would be preserved and integrated in the new school extension.

The Light Bulb Aabenraa

The finished result is a unique blend of history, contemporary architecture, and modern learning principles.
The atmosphere in and around the building is on the one hand unmistakably modern, but on the other hand, very true to the historic context.

The Light Bulb Aabenraa

The old school has been extensively renovated and modernized, with only, apart from the extension, a few new additions to the outside of the building. All the additions are emphasized by a Corten steel cladding, as to not disturb the perception of the original school building.
The extension has a playful structure of columns and patterned brickwork, to the west, and is distinctly different from the existing school building.

The Light Bulb Aabenraa

To the east, it is the facade of the old factory, that is still the face towards the intimate courtyard. To avoid the issues of different levels in the existing school and the historic factory, and the structural integrity of the old façade, there is a 3 m gap between the old façade and the new building. The gap is occupied by glass boxes for meetings, group projects and/or concentrated work, extruding from the new building.

The project has drawn a lot of attention and recognition, for example it was awarded the biannual architecture award of the local municipality, and it was nominated for the prestigious “School Building of the Year Award” (“Årets Skolebyggeri”), both in 2018.

The Light Bulb Aabenraa

How is the project unique?
The historic elements from the old light bulb factory, as well as the location in the old town center, have had a large impact on the design strategy. The aim was to benefit from the history of the place, to be able to create spaces and atmospheres out of the ordinary, and distinctly, unique to the specific site. For example, some of the old machines from the light bulb fabrication have been preserved, and showcased in and around the school and the adjacent park.

The Light Bulb Aabenraa Jutland

What was the brief?
The school, VUC Aabenraa, made an architectural competition, which was won by ZENI arkitekter a/s, a local architectural firm, in 2014. The project was to renovate and extend their existing school building, located centraly in the old, Danish town of Aabenraa. The project was to be divided into two stages. In the first stage, the old factory, that occupied the site of the extension, would be demolished, except from the eastern façade, that had historic value to the city, and a new school building would be erected in its place. In the second stage, the old school was to be extensively renovated and modernized, and the gap between the two school buildings would be filled out by a new building, linking them physically together, thus finally creating one, conjoined school.

The Light Bulb Aabenraa Jutland

What were the key challenges?
The key challenges of the project were the preservation of the historic factory façade, and the challenge of extending the existing school in a way, that would create a school, that on one hand would be conceived as a whole, but on the other hand would respect the scale and character of the surrounding city.

The Light Bulb Aabenraa Jutland

What were the solutions?
The solution to the challenge with the preserved façade, was not to try to integrate it in the new building, but instead to let it be a free-standing element of its own right. The façade appears unchanged from the outside, with the original, single pane windows still in place. On the inside, large windows in the façade of the new building, frame the back side of the old façade, with all its historic scars, different colours and exposed, cut of beams, thus letting the historic façade be a decorative and character giving element.

The challenge of doubling the size of the existing school, while not creating a building, that would be too much out of scale, compared to the context of the surrounding city, and thereby risking destroying its charming atmosphere, was solved by giving the extension its own, unique, architectural character on the outside, while focusing on letting the existing and the new building blend more seamlessly together on the inside.

On the outside, the two buildings are only architecturally linked by the use of brick, and selected elements in Corten Steel. On the inside, the same materials are used throughout, in the new building and in the renovation of the existing building, thus creating a similar atmosphere. The large, open learning spaces, with only relatively few, closed class rooms, are also prevalent throughout, after the extensive renovation and modernization of the interior of the existing school building from the 1950’ies.

The Light Bulb Aabenraa

The Light Bulb, in Jutland, Denmark – Building Information

Design: ZENI arkitekter a/s –

Project size: 6550 sqm
Site size: 7850 sqm
Completion date: 2018
Building levels: 4

The Light Bulb Aabenraa

Photography: ZENI arkitekter a/s

The Light Bulb, Aabenraa Jutland images / information received 270322

Location: Aabenraa, Jutland, Denmark, northern Europe

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