In 1975, the renowned Norwegian architect Sverre Fehn completed the groundbreaking Skådalen School, a specialized educational facility designed to cater to children with hearing impairments. The meticulously planned campus consists of various components, including dormitories, administrative offices, a sports hall, and, of course, instructional classrooms.
One of the most innovative aspects of the design is Fehn’s unique approach to acoustics; he consciously replaced the traditional focus on sound reverberation with a strong emphasis on visual orientation. This architectural strategy enhanced spatial awareness and facilitated more effective communication for the students, thereby setting a precedent for how design can adapt to specific sensory needs.
Skådalen School Technical Information
- Architects1-3: Sverre Fehn
- Location: Skådalsveien 33, Oslo, Norway
- Material: Brick, Concrete
- Type: Educational, School
- Project Year: 1971 – 1977
- Photographs: © Teigens Fotoatelier
I have never thought of myself as modern, but I did absorb the anti-monumental and the pictorial world of Le Corbusier, as well as the functionalism of the small villages of North Africa. You might say I came of age in the shadow of modernism.– Sverre Fehn
Skådalen School Photographs
A Pioneering Institution for Deaf Children in Scandinavia
The design of the Skådalen School is probably one of the most intricate structures Sverre Fehn has ever done due to a complex architectural program: the school was the first institution for deaf children in Scandinavia.
The project consists of eight independent buildings distributed on the plot following the slope of the topography. The two-story oblong building was designed for group activities. Its main hall was lit by windows in the ceiling and from the bay windows on the side. These allowed some activities to be carried out in private while preserving the connection between interior and exterior.
To design the building, Sverre Fehn used an open class system model that transformed the pupil/teacher relation. Large sliding doors gave the room some flexibility. The structures are mainly built of bricks both in the exterior and the interior. Other materials, such as concrete and laminated wood, were also used.
The classroom building and the kindergarten both have a similar semicircular shape, inspired by the way the children gather around the teacher. The school provided houses for the board members where there are six dormitories with rooms associated around a common area. Other buildings include a dining room, a kitchen, administration offices, and sports facilities.
The school as a whole has been articulated as a small town in which its inhabitants can learn to orient themselves easily due to the different shapes and materials. The transparency of the whole area enables young children to create simple and direct spatial relations. Sverre Fehn devoted many considerations to these relationships.
The scattered plan is a strategy that allows the residents to walk from their “homes” to school. The architect has to recognize the physical size of the children. You cannot accept a point of view that says the structure has to stand and wait, expecting you to grow and reach twenty-one years of age before you fit into the world. … No pedagogy can reach the child if the architecture does not recognize the child’s dimensions.– Sverre Fehn5
Skådalen School Floor Plan
Skådalen School Image Gallery
About Sverre Fehn
Sverre Fehn (August 14th, 1924 – February 23rd, 2009) was a Norwegian architect born in Kongsberg. Sverre Fehn taught at the Oslo School of Architecture from 1971 to 1991, as well as at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. The architect’s highest international honor came in 1997 when he was awarded both the Pritzker Architecture Prize and the Heinrich Tessenow Gold Medal.
- Team: Eilif Andersen, Truls Ovrum, Jon Kåre Schultz, Tom Wike, Bjørn Larsen, all architects. MNAL
- Client: SBED (currently Statsbygg, Public Construction and Property Management)
- Consultants: Terje Orlien from Ing. Arne Neegaard AS (structural engineer)
- Nasjonalmuseet/Veiby, Jeanette
- Fehn in his text in Byggekunst no. 6-1978.