Gällivare, located north of the Arctic circle, is a city undergoing a unique transformation. Two centres will merge when neighbouring area Malmberget is relocated to Gällivare as a result of mining development. Through dialogues with citizens and contact with the local business sector and other stakeholders, the municipality has established a vision to build a “world-class Arctic town”. Liljewall has contributed to this vision through the creation of Kunskapshuset, which will house the municipality’s upper secondary school and adult education centres. Using the mine and nature’s contours as inspiration, the six-storey-high school has been designed as a landmark that tells the story of the culture and the area. The asymmetrical design breaks down the building’s scale and gives it an enduring and powerful architectural character.
Great emphasis has been placed on creating a flexible and attractive educational environment, equipped for future change and development needs. Kunskapshuset has a distinct wooden profile through the eye-catching interior and exterior elements in wood. The facade highlights a design tradition and creates a sense of craftsmanship in the town. It is built from glued laminated timber and glass with vertical wooden pillars that sit in front of the inner load bearers. The pillars, which all have different shapes and cuts, have been placed in pairs, creating varying forms.
When passers-by walk alongside the school there is an impression of variability and rhythm. From certain angles, the school is experienced as solid, while from others it appears to be completely glazed. Students, staff, and visitors step into the heart of the school through a brass-clad, welcoming entrance. This opens up into a generous entrance hall with incredibly high ceilings, a crackling fireplace, and a distinctive, site-specific staircase leading to the upper floors with stunning views over the mountains. The stairs are clad in dark corrugated steel that is broken up with steps made from oak blocks. At the very bottom of the ground floor, the steps become tiered seats where students can hang out.
Much of the fixed furniture and some of the loose furniture has been designed and produced specifically for Kunskapshuset. For example, one specific seating furniture was designed taking inspiration from the Sami pattern that formed the basis for the school’s design. The sturdy glued laminated timber benches have great symbolic value, which corresponds to the overall character of the building. During the project, three selected Sami artists were contacted to each represent interesting aspects of Sami culture.
These are painter Anders Sunna, glass artist Monica Edmondsson, and textile artist Britta Marakatt Labba. One of the pieces is a large concrete casting with a circular Sami pattern that has been integrated into an over 21-metre-long part of the facades, and the other is a light well in the entrance hall. It was important that the works of art were integrated to become part of the building – not just an addition.