A new open-plan architecture school in Umeå encourages creative learning and collaboration
As an experimental laboratory for developing architecture of the future, the Umeå School of Architecture, part of a larger masterplan for the Arts Campus at Umeå University, exemplifies a new possibility within the school typology. The building, completed in 2010 and designed by Henning Larsen Architects, innovates learner-centric pedagogy through the orchestration of varied and open collaborative spaces. Situated along the Umeå River, the regular orthogonal perforations in the facade offer outstanding views of the surrounding context.
The design itself is inspired by the regular city grid of Umeå, and provides sight lines throughout the building that visually connect the school and the students to the city. The design represents a new school form that facilitates a frequent exchange of knowledge among students, and between students and faculty. All studio spaces are open-plan, only separated by different floors, and are wrapped around a central arrangement of suspended boxes that hold a variety of playful spaces to accommodate a wide range of meeting needs.
The meeting rooms are predominantly clad in glass to allow for transparency. Thus, when an event such as a critique is taking place, the discussion within the central meeting room can be observed casually by students circulating through the building’s core, or peering over the bal-conies.
"The intention has been to design an open, robust study environment where each student feels part of the creative study community. The open layout and informal meeting places create a light and laboratory-like atmosphere supporting idea development and creative work processes", explains architect Per Ebbe Hansson of Henning Larsen Architects. Sophisticated measures have also been taken to integrate sustainability into the design of the school. Intensive daylight calculations aided in the formulation of a façade that optimises access to natural lighting and the warmth of the low-lying northern sun, while maintaining a level of insulation sufficient to keep heating costs and energy expenditure to a minimum. As well, the wood for the façade, along with other materials, was sourced locally.