Gammel Hellerup High School Gymnasium + Multipurpose Hall

  • User Side Images Image 361
    The sloped-roof gymnasium. Photo: Jens Lindhe.
  • User Side Images Image 362
    The new main entrance to the school and gymnasium. Photo: Jens Lindhe.

LOCATION: Hellerup, Denmark
TYPE: Gymnasium, Multi-purpose Hall, School Courtyard
SIZE: 12,500 SQ. FT.
PROJECT PARTNERS: CG Jensen, EKJ, H. Helbo Hansen A/S

Signe Nielsen found notable making use of the building's roof in dense urban areas where every space needs to perform multiple functions. The innovation in this case is that the roof is accessible from the public sidewalk so it becomes an opportunity for added social and active space adjacent to the public realm.”

The design for the multi-purpose space is a response to the local high school’s request for a multifunctional design where its students could socialize and engage in activity. Wishing to have the facility placed in its existing courtyard while maintaining sight lines and connectivity to the existing school building, BIG’s solution was to build the gymnasium sixteen feet below ground. The below-ground, multi-purpose hall minimizes environmental and economic impact, while also serving as a gymnasium and a social gathering space for students. The roof creates a new hilly schoolyard, dotted with furniture, acting as an informal venue for student activity. A new entry to the school removes the preexisting barrier between the neighboring community, which has enabled the school to host community events.

Active Design Highlights

  • The sloping roof of the gymnasium is an accessible, dynamic area for social gatherings, acting as a large hilly schoolyard designed with a “molehill” peak.
  • The roof gives students and staff an imaginative place to walk, run and be active. Below ground, students engage in activities such as basketball and handball.
  • The curves in the roof along with the varying heights of the curve serve as places for social gathering. Roof heights are set to allow for seating.


  • The design of the new below ground space activates a historically under utilized courtyard space, while still keeping the views and connectivity to the existing school buildings.