A school for Copenhagen’s future

Copenhagen International School officially opened its new campus in the Nordhavn district this week. Covered in solar panels and with space for 1,200 students, it’s both the largest, and most sustainable, international school in Denmark

Overlooking the sea in the Nordhavn district, Copenhagen International School (CIS) officially opened its new campus this week. Covering 25,000 square meters, and clad in 12,000 solar panels, the school is a slick, sustainable and visionary piece of architecture that unites the school after years of being divided between two campuses.

Established in 1963, CIS is an IB World School and offers the International Baccalaureate education, which is recognised by higher education institutions around the world. It is Denmark’s largest international school with 930 students and 180 teachers from 80 different countries – at full capacity CIS will house 1,200 students and 280 teachers.

Brit van Ooijen, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Copenhagen International School (right) accompanies Princess Benedikte into the school. Photo: Lars Krogsgaard

On Tuesday, March 7, the school was officially opened at a ceremony that was attended by Princess Benedikte, Minister of Education Merete Riisager and Mayor of the City of Copenhagen Frank Jensen.

In his speech, Jensen pointed out that the school’s expansion is needed in order to accommodate Copenhagen’s growing international community.

The central atrium. Photo: Adam Mørk

“Schooling is a top priority when choosing which city to move to. Families often only stay a few yeas so it’s important to register their children in an international school that follows the same programme as in other countries. I am sure CIS will be a magnet for attracting international companies and talent to our city. The school is also a first mover into the area Nordhavn, and I am confident the international school will be a driving force in the city’s ambition to become carbon neutral.”

The new 500 million kroner campus will educate children age three to 19 across four sections – Early Years, Primary School, Middle School and High School. Each section has their own tower that is designed specifically for the needs of the age group, while each floor has a unique colour and layout to help provide a sense of belonging and identity. The designers also placed most of the classrooms in the building’s corners in order to optimise daylight and views.

The classrooms have plenty of natural light. Photo: Adam Mørk

While the solar panels on the school’s facade will provide around half of its energy requirements, the sustainable approach continues inside. All the artificial lights are low energy LEDs, while the interior furnishings are all made from natural materials – the floors are of oiled oakwood, sofas are upholstered in wool, and bookshelves are solid bamboo. All cardboard and paper will be compressed, sold or reused. Pupils will also grow their own fruit and vegetables in greenhouses, and all organic waste from the kitchens will be disposed of in a bio tank for later use as animal feed. In the longer term the school’s toilets will be flushed with recirculated water.

The 12,000 solar panels on the building’s facade will provide around half of the school’s energy needs. Photo: Adam Mørk

“We wanted to create a sustainable educational flagship in the heart of Nordhavn that in a persuasive way brings every side of the new quarter to life, using a transparent and open base and a façade that, due to its functionality and aesthetics, is an innovative landmark in the new quarter,” says Mads Mandrup, architect and partner at C.F. Møller, which designed the school.

The new CIS campus is one of the first major redevelopments in Nordhavn as it transitions from an industrial to a residential and commercial district. Photo: Adam Mørk

With a 300-seat theatre and three full-size gyms, the new CIS campus has some of the best facilities on offer in Denmark. But while the school is private, many of the facilities will be open to the wider community too, which will slowly develop around the school over the coming decade. Nordhavn is in the midst of being transformed into a new sustainable business and housing district that can accommodate 40,000 residents and 40,000 workplaces by 2030. M

READ MORE: How to build a school without losing its spirit


By Peter Stanners

Co-founder and Editor-in-chief. Occasional photographer.

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