Cooperation and collaboration
The redevelopment of Eilert Sundt Videregående Skole
MONA-ANITA K. OLSEN, PH.D.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many of the best educational plans to a standstill or forced a major pivot around the world, including Norway. The COVID-19 pandemic has also allowed time for investing in projects involving renovations.
For Eilert Sundt Videregående Skole (Eilert Sundt VGS), a Norwegian upper secondary school in Farsund, plans that started developing in 2014 could be fully developed. Eilert Sundt VGS went under a huge building renovation during the height of the pandemic and recently moved into the new space during the operational school year (October 2021). The space was designed to specifically address the need for more vocational study options in Agder county.
Eilert Sundt VGS was formerly spread out across various locations in Farsund municipality. Programs in the towns of Farsund and Vanse were combined in the new facility in the center of Farsund. The school space in Lyngdal is still in full operation. With an eye-catching design that blends the historical and the modern in the area of downtown Farsund, the new facility was strategically designed to highlight vocational spaces at the street level.
When walking along the streets of Farsund, you can catch a glimpse into a world of career development and training. For example, on one street, you can see a building and construction workshop and on another a hairdressing studio. By being able to see into a portion of the space, you can dream about what it would be like to be in such a workshop space for learning and life development.
Inside, the building includes updated systems and a modern aesthetic appeal. When you walk into a specific glass hallway, you notice colorful circles on the glass. Not only do these colorful circles lend themselves to an instant amazing photo opportunity, but they also connect to a sense of place, as the circles are extracts of minerals found in Agder as seen through a microscope. While you can embrace the minerals of Agder in your daily walks through the building, Eilert Sundt VGS also offers international opportunities. Thanks to funding from Erasmus+, the school will be able to fulfill a goal to offer all students an international experience as a natural extension to their existing course subjects.
Eilert Sundt VGS offers vocational studies in building and construction, hairdressing, flowers, interior and display design, electrical and computer technology, and a general-studies track. Focused on meeting the vocational needs of Agder, Eilert Sundt VGS will introduce a new track for media and design. This new space allows students from all levels (VG1, VG2, and VG3) to mingle at various times throughout their educational journey. The public library even has a cozy space themed with a Farsund motif of the coastline, and a setup for group work for students with easy access through Eilert Sundt VGS.
Furniture was specifically selected to allow for mobility and connection. The aim of the “living” and “flexible” educational space is to encourage and support and solve the socialization challenges of education magnified by COVID-19. The ideal is to not have any students feel alone in their educational journey. Skills on how to live life, and a focus on how to build sustainability in managing one’s life, are encouraged in the educational experience. For example, in the lunch area of the building, there is a dividing wall between the faculty and student sections, which is purposefully opened on specific days to encourage professional relationship building among students, faculty, and staff.
Vice Principal Børge Tjørn discussed the challenges of managing a school under redevelopment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Socialization and the management of being social has been a challenge for all, but it has also highlighted the commitment to building and further developing the culture in the school where students are seen, learn to interact, and explore methods to influence their own situations. Tjørn reflected on how his team is aiming to encourage students and faculty to engage in democratic approaches to solving problems—taking responsibility for both school and working life. He also commented that his team is working to make Eilert Sundt VGS a better place to be by collaborating and cooperating to make that happen. As Tjørn commented, “There are always channels to make a difference and to influence our environments for the better.”
Learn more about Eilert Sundt VGS at eilertsundt.vgs.no.
All photos by Mona-Anita K. Olsen, Ph.D.
This article originally appeared in the March 4, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.