Copenhagen International School

Lighting for Learning

Together with Anders Smith and lighting designer Michael Anker, the architectural office C.F. Møller Architects developed the lighting solution for the Copenhagen International School. Together they represent all didactic, architectural and design decisions. The new building, an impressive 25,000 square metres, is at Copenhagen’s northern harbour. The structure is unique in so many ways. 

A universal solution

From the get-go, the focus was to use light to create the best possible learning, teaching, and working environment. This requires flexibility and adaptability to match the right light with the right situation and the right task. The school welcomes kids from 3 to 18 years old, as well as adults of all ages, so it needed to be super-easy to adjust the colour temperature and intensity quickly and intuitively to best support the various activities. Installation should also be flexible, both for the current use and to adapt to future applications. The suspended luminaires are connected on tracks and are height-adjustable for macro changes. Minor modifications, such as adjusting the light quality and intensity, can be made directly via the app or wall switches.

Light colour tuning

It should be possible to independently and intuitively control the up and downlight on each luminaire through one interface in a small, simple, and beautiful enclosure. The goal was to create an environment where the general lighting was distinct from the work light. Users can be in a warm room with cool, intense light for precise work. A much higher lux level (1000 lux) was required on the table surface compared to the standard 500 lux. Studies show it improves learning and boosts student performance. It was essential to be able to dim the light for video presentations while providing increased indirect light.

Customised VELA for maximum flexibility

The solution with the bespoke VELA provides day and seasonal lighting, with optimised work light scenarios in all spaces, where the local user can make direct adjustments thanks to wall buttons or smartphones. We, therefore, created four different scenarios. One can either select the reading versus focus mode, relaxation versus power light mode, as well as warm or cold lights. Tunable white ranges between 2500 – 5000 K. The fantastic advantage is that one independently controls direct and indirect light. Another custom feature of the round VELA was that one can easily adjust the height manually and can even move it around in the classroom.

Go to product

"When children and teachers are inside the building and the daylight disappears, it is important to have it replaced with artificial light - as close to nature's own light as possible."

Jørgen Juul

"XAL was the right partner for us thanks to their sleek and beautiful luminaires, their understanding of design and quality, and their willingness to engage and solve our vision with a tailored solution."

Anders Smith


Education is about supporting learners. Lighting plays a massive role in creating appropriate, comfortable, and functional environments. Nobody can learn if they feel unsafe, unappreciated, unheard, and misunderstood, regardless of whether they have special needs, are advanced learners, or new to a subject. Functionally and mentally, the right light solution supports students and educators in a range of essential ways. This will, in my opinion, become more widely understood in the years ahead as low-hanging fruit and inexpensive way to improve learning outcomes.

anders smith design is a consultancy specialised in user-centred and design-driven innovation. Based in Copenhagen, anders smith unites an international outlook with Scandinavian quality-of-life to deliver cutting-edge design services worldwide.

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Anders Smith, Lighting Designer, anders smith design
Anders Smith, Lighting Designer, anders smith design

Jørgen Juul on the perfect location

The Copenhagen International School and C.F. Møller Architects searched for a long time for a suitable building site. We managed to get the Copenhagen International School located on a unique plot in the old container port with the spectacular cranes. Here the task was to get as much view and daylight as possible into the building. All the life and scenery with ships unloading and loading before they sail further out into the world, the contact with Copenhagen's waterfront and the seagulls' screams should form a unique place for an international school. The requirement for the light was to adapt in colour and intensity with different scenes to support the purpose of studying and to reflect the dynamic of a port.

Jørgen Juul
Jørgen Juul
Photographer: Kris Dekeijser
Architect: C.F. Møller Architects
Lighting Design: Anders Smith