Rebuilding a school’s character with plenty of daylight

In 2012 local authorities ended more than 10 years of talks by adopting a plan to refurbish the old vocational school in Huddinge, Sweden. The school, originally built in 1961, represented classic 60s architecture and was good quality. 

Still, fifty years of wear had left its mark, and when the refurbishment plans were agreed upon they included the replacement of more than 100 old skylights.

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An iconic industrial style perfect for skylights

One of the defining characteristics of Sågbäcksgymnasiet is its sawtooth roof. The classic feature of the industrial age quickly became a focal point for the project leaders at Origo Arkitekter, the leading architect firm. Åsa Machado explains: “The sawtooth ceiling and the possibility of skylights were central to our plans; we realised this very early on. We decided to give the entire school access to what we believe was the premises’ best side.

North-faced skylights and sawtooth ceiling of the Sågbäcksgymnasiet

The sawtooth roof allows four bands of north-faced skylights to illuminate the interior. While the old skylights had frosted glass with dimming effect and extremely poor energy performance, the new ones are be able to support and nourish the new assembly area with plenty of daylight, ventilation and energy control.

"The light gives energy. The students don't really believe that, but it really does." - Eva Källen, teacher.

Leading a vocational school, you need to invest in your students

Principal Hans Almgren describes the school as “a solid building in classic modernist style”, and he is glad the refurbishment plan could maintain the look and feel of the original architecture: “They have managed to preserve something that is part of the school’s soul - the 60s quality”, he says.

The principal is especially pleased with the way the new central area, with its dominating sawtooth ceiling performs, reinventing the original aesthetics of the building and taking full advantage of the ceiling’s potential.

“The skylight was key to the positive change. The architects always strived to open the building up, let in light and create visual depth. We have no dead corners, and no dark corners.”

Students of the Sågbäcksgymnasiet in the library illuminated by natural light

Hans Almgren is aware of the importance of creating a learning environment that is both inspiring and dignifying. A vocational school is always at risk of being regarded as a second-rate choice, he admits, and that is why the setting is so important.

“It is probably true that vocational training is not highly regarded, but we want to be the best in our sector. Our students are important and we want them to enjoy a nice and pleasant environment. This affects their confidence and their willingness to study.”

Activity increases in a bright and spacious environment

Inside the building, the change is significant. While the old brown wire glass of the previous skylights left the interior murky at best, the new flow of daylight has transformed the environment entirely, triggering a notable rise in student activity.

“A school with self-esteem gives students a sense of pride and identity. And now our students are proud” - Eva Källen, Schoolteacher.