Thor Heyerdahl College with almost 28,000 square metres, 1,650 students and 300 staff is one of Norway’s largest sixth-form colleges, bringing together five schools from a broad spectrum of youth education programmes and creating interdisciplinary synergy, coherence and a real sense of community spirit.
The layered design for the new building is simple but effective, clustering the various elements of the school in a compact, flexible and vertically oriented building. The main structure comprises an open square plate into which openings have been incised, allowing natural light to penetrate deep into the building. A corresponding plate above is turned 180 degrees on the axis of the building, creating a series of single-height areas accommodating traditional teaching/learning activities and workshop activities, while double-height spaces house communal facilities such as an auditorium, the canteen and the library.
The rotational effect and corresponding plate displacement creates outdoor terraces, while internally providing visual connections between floors. The lift and twist created by this rotation also creates a central space, which widens towards the top and increases the natural light flooding into the building. The scheme will include a separate sports arena for 4,000 spectators: this multi-functional facility will be used for sports classes and as the home ground for the handball team of the city, as well as for concerts and other cultural events. The arena will strengthen links between the student population and the wider community.
The dynamic design of the college, with its four distinct axes, is intended to create opportunities for academic exploration, knowledge sharing and social interaction right across the student community, as a visual metaphor honouring the ethos of the man after whom the college is named.