St. Mary's School inaugurated

Mariaskolan, an independent school with students in grades F-9, will open its new premises designed by FOJAB architects in the fall of 2011.

- "It is wonderful and almost unreal that we have now reached our goal," says Ann-Christin Berglund, principal of Mariaskolan, which is ready to be used by 250 expectant students and staff.

- It is so clearly the start of something new. We already notice that we see each other and meet in a completely different way than before. The premises create opportunities and help us to develop the school's content, pedagogically and methodologically. They invite new ways of working - to explore and renew our activities.

With a 20-year-old temporary building permit and a single-storey section building nearing the end of its technical life, the situation became urgent to address. A working group was set up to investigate the premises issue from a broad perspective. Everything from virgin land in other parts of the city to renting premises in the local area was considered. In parallel, a program work with study visits and pedagogical reflections took place. Even at this early stage, Viveca Rosencrantz, commissioned architect at FOJAB arkitekter, was involved in the work.

- It's actually very simple. It's all about thinking ahead," says Viveca. The directional decisions you make early on will guide you through the entire process. Well prepared early stages create participation and stability in the project and give us as architects the opportunity to build long-term values for the client. The process led to the decision to build a new building on the existing site, for an almost doubled number of pupils. In order to free up as much schoolyard space as possible, a zoning change was applied for in order to build on three floors. A compact building structure with a small footprint on the ground became a prerequisite.

Mariaskolan is special: it is run by a Christian parents' association, half of the children have an immigrant background and year after year it is among the three best schools in southern Sweden in terms of results. An independent school operates in an open market, so it is important to have a building with a profile that communicates what the school stands for. Simple materials, light concrete and corrugated metal, in a clear and bold design language give the building its own identity. The interior is colorful and graphically distinctive.

- From the outset, the school expressed a strong desire to safeguard the qualities and values that underpin the good results. Simplicity, closeness between students and staff, peace of mind and openness both internally and externally were key concepts," says Viveca Rosencrantz.

This is also reflected in the finished building. In order to provide peace and quiet, a solution was chosen with home classrooms that have visual contact with adjacent rooms via glazed entrances over corners. Both classrooms and staff work and break rooms are relatively small in favor of the common areas, and meeting and group rooms can be used by everyone.

The compact body of the building is crossed by corridors and group rooms in line, which are terminated by large glass panels. The design brings light into the interior of the school and provides views of the surrounding world. Ann-Christin Berglund concludes:

- At school, you should be able to ask curious questions, think big thoughts and process them in interaction with others. We feel that we have a building that invites just that.