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COBE et MVRDV : Roskilde Festival Folk High School

A high school without exam, without note and near a music festival? A dream for our young French students, a reality for the people of Roskilde (Denmark). Housed in a former disused concrete factory, the establishment offers an alternative education that enhances the creativity of its students and promotes both the learning of the electric guitar and the understanding of mathematical equations.

Very little exploited in France, the Scandinavian concept of popular high schools has soft utopian accents. And yet this educational scheme based on the precepts of Danish intellectual NFS Grundtvig - established in the nineteenth century - is sobering. Assuming that education promotes good integration into society, high schools offer young people - and not so young - adults the opportunity to extend their lifelong learning by going out of traditional history and of geometry. If the model has largely seduced the last century, it has been somewhat set aside in recent years for the benefit of standardized schools. It was without counting on the municipality of Roskilde - a small city on the outskirts of Copenhagen famous for its annual rock festival of the same name -, which offers to update the forgotten concept by entrusting agencies COBE and MVRDV the project of rehabilitation from a neglected factory to a brand new establishment offering courses in music, politics, art, architecture, design, media or "leadership". An entire program !

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"Our design, like the school itself, was inspired by the spirit of the Roskilde Festival. It's all about music, art, militancy, but above all freedom. " Jacob van Rijs, director and confusor of MVRDV

The first school of its kind since 50 years, the high school takes place in the district of Musicon, near the festival site, in a neglected factory that quickly seduced the prime contractors: "The warehouses were rough and worn and we immediately liked them. We immediately saw an immense potential in setting up a creative school there [...] Its abandoned aspect also meant that this school would never become institutional, which could have been the case in a new ensemble "says Dan Stubbergaard, founder of COBE. Anxious to preserve the soul of the place, the architects voluntarily keep the concrete beams and pillars of the factory and embellish the thick walls of large windows. Under a ceiling of 8 meters high, the teams of COBE and MVRDV imagine two half-levels staggered around a central common space whose wide wooden amphitheater staircase constitutes the heart.
The spaces are then divided thanks to a system of "box in the box" integrating 16 modules defining the various workshops offered by the establishment. Each of these boxes is dressed in a bright color, shades serving as a signage to students and defining the nature of the lessons taught: a music studio, dance halls, artistic workshops etc. Discipline versatility divided into three areas: activities of the mind, body and hand.

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Dan Stubbergaard, a former student of a popular high school, keeps the memory of the house on the spot in the winter, before returning to the family home on sunny days. An essential aspect in the Grundtvig doctrine which is here rehabilitated. Linked to the common spaces by metal walkways, students' lounges take place in two four-storey, double-skinned metal-attached blocks located at the front of the main building. Each level welcomes between 12 and 15 students who are housed in narrow and intimate rooms, all with common areas such as kitchen, canteen or working niches: "In my opinion, it helps to strengthen the community, which is an integral part of life in a high school. Very often, all the fun is happening in smaller rooms, because they are not as controlled as conventional learning rooms. " explains Stubbergaard. Four aligned houses - also covered with metal - are juxtaposed to this ensemble and house the faculty.

What make students want to cram constantly!

To learn more, visit The COBE site et MVRDV

Photographs: Rasmus Hjortshøj from COAST and Ossip van Duivenbode

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