Munkegård School: A Strict System with Room for Well-being


© Per Munkgaard Thorsen (

With its numerous light inlets and access to courtyards, Munkegård School focused on student well-being among other things. Today, it is considered one of Arne Jacobsen’s masterpieces – which has also undergone sublime restoration and an extension designed by Dorte Mandrup.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, many public schools were built in Denmark. At that time, there was an increased understanding of the necessity for a child’s physical well-being, inspired partly by English models. Thus, the low-rise, single-story school emerged in the early 1950s.

One of the First Danish Single-Story Schools

Munkegård School was designed by Danish architect Arne Jacobsen. It is one of the first Danish single-story schools. The school consists of a series of one-story building blocks, connected by transverse glass corridors to form a network. The meshes of the net are atrium courtyards, each with direct access from the classrooms.

The specialized classrooms are located in a two-story building on the edge of the network. Another two-story block with an assembly hall, staff room, and other facilities is in the middle of the large building complex. From the school complex, situated on a sloping ground, stairs lead down to the sports field. In addition to the light from the glass facade facing the courtyard, the classrooms are supplemented by daylight from high windows in the roof, illuminating the back part of the rooms.

Arne Jacobsen All Over

Almost everything was designed by Arne Jacobsen – including carpentry, cabinets, furnishings, and lighting. He also designed each small courtyard, that was given its unique character with varied pavings and plantings and replicas of antique sculptures either as reliefs on walls or freestanding.

A Human Atmosphere in a Strict System

Although the school is designed for about 1,000 students, it appears simple and was praised in its time for its clarity and intimacy. The school’s light and humane atmosphere is due largely to the logical floor plan and complete control over the proportioning of building bodies and means. As with other works of Arne Jacobsen, it is characteristic that a strict system is made into a living architectural work. Munkegård School thus added an unprecedented elegance to school construction in the 50s.

Past and Present Melt Together

Since 1957, there has been significant development in teaching methods. As this evolved, Munkegård School needed more open and flexible spaces to accommodate the school’s desire for interdisciplinary teaching sequences and greater differentiation in instruction.
The task involved renovating and supplementing new access and distribution structures at the school, as well as expanding the school by 1,500 square meters for new classrooms. Expanding a large architectural work without affecting the overall architectural expression and idea automatically posed significant challenges. The architects at Dorte Mandrup accomplished the task, with an underground expansion where the many square meters were placed beneath the existing schoolyard.

Bright Underground Spaces

The new extension follows the grid that underlies Arne Jacobsen’s existing plan. The small characteristic courtyards, a hallmark of the school, were further interpreted by Dorte Mandrup by creating four crystal-like openings that pull light down to a large, contiguous common room with adjoining specialized classrooms. This gives the impression of being in a light-filled space rather than a basement. During the project period, the architects intensely worked on achieving the right daylight factor, using the light laboratory at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts’ School of Architecture extensively.

In 2010, Dorte Mandrup won the Store Arne Award for the extension and renovation of Munkegård School.




Arne Jacobsen
Dorte Mandrup


Gentofte Municipality

Landscape architect

Marianne Levinsen Landskab


Carl Bro