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Forest light in the recess hall

Daylight has a fundamental role to play at the new “Hessenwaldschule” (Forest School of Hessen) in Weiterstadt. Its building has now been honored with 3rd prize at the 2019 Velux architecture competition.

The newbuild for the Hessenwaldschule by wulf architekten stands in a clearing at the edge of woodlands, near to the locality of Gräfenhausen, a district of Weiterstadt. The architects subtly reference the school’s location in the forest when designing the large atrium which forms the building’s central point – the perforated sun blinds in front of the windows allow the light to create the kind of mood that might be expected under a tree canopy. The wooden cladding on the walls, banisters and gallery banisters reinforce the impression of being out in the open, even inside the building.

For an optimum supply of daylight to the center of the atrium there are six ribbon windows integrated into the ceiling. For these, Velux Modular Skylights were used. The diffuse light provided by the skylights act as a counterbalance to the ever-changing light that filters through the sun blinds from the side to the balconies. Moreover, the embrasures of the light shafts have been painted white, thus serving as reflectors whose light surfaces interrupt the atrium’s expanded metal ceiling. Last but not least, the Velux Modular Skylights represent an important part of the Hessenwaldschule’s energy concept. During the winter, the air in the atrium is heated by means of the large panes of glass in the roof and can then be relayed to the adjacent parts of the building. During the summer, the warm air can escape through the ribbon glazing.

In their design wulf architekten were consistent in organizing the school around its central atrium. Three pavilions, each housing one grade, are grouped around this central element. With their two stories, each contains five classrooms and one “Differenzierungsraum” (differentiation room). The ground floor houses the specialist rooms, administration, canteen and school kitchen.

The panel of experts judging the 2019 Velux architecture competition awarded 3rd Prize to the Hessenwaldschule for its intelligent lighting concept. The jury particularly praised both “the recess hall which, because it has the benefit of such generous quantities of daylight, has the feel of an inner schoolyard out-of-doors”, and “special details such as the seating benches integrated into its v-shaped supports." (fap)