Amsterdam-based NL Architects have recently won the competition for a new school building in Knokke-Heist, Belgium. The proposal "De Vonk" (The Spark) acts as a transition between the city's outer rim and the adjacent farmland.
Project Description from the Architects:
By positioning the required multifunctional hall in the center of the building it will play an active role in the daily life of the school. The gymnastics hall as such can perform as square: a meeting place, a theatre, a room for ceremonies and festivals. At the same time it will form the connection between the different functions of the school.
The hall is enveloped by a corridor, a kind of arcade that distributes the kids and visitors over the building. A thick wall absorbs the dressing rooms and storage space. But it also contains cavities for playing or studying that will hopefully further activate the hallway. The wall opens up to reveal the activity inside and to create visual relationships between the different parts of the building.
The multifunctional hall requires a bigger height than the other rooms: it pops through the roof. Natural light will illuminate its interior: the heart of the building lights up.
Gross = Nett?
The Nett is the effective space that the client desires, the Gross what actually has to be paid for. In today’s architecture the Gross / Nett ratio is the measurement of all things. Can we reclaim the Tare for Architecture?
The aspiration is to make a building without corridors. Corridors are only there to make people move through the building. Would it be possible to turn the traffic spaces into multifunctional rooms?
Powers of Ten
Education is going through a process of individualization. The traditional ‘frontal’ use of a classroom with a teacher transmitting his knowledge in front of a group of listeners becomes less dominant. Education becomes interactive. Kids, more and more, work by themselves or in small groups. Fewer fixed working spaces are needed; more flexible arrangements desirable. In that sense the number of ‘scale levels’ of a school building should be increased.
The primary school consists of a series of classrooms that are placed around a rectangular enclosed ‘courtyard’. Shelves (for hanging coats and displaying or storing school stuff) form an interface between the classrooms and this interior ‘square’. The classrooms become part of the larger whole; the children can also work outside the boundaries of their classrooms. A multiform block containing storage and toilets is placed on the interior plaza creating niches: the corridor potentially becomes workspace.
The spaces for the nursery school are organized in a loose ring around a patio. From the classroom it is possible to directly access this courtyard. The corridor is placed around the rooms. This hallway can be considered an extension of the classrooms; through the free arrangement a differentiated space to play comes into being: ‘endless’ but intimate.
The spacious nature of the site creates an opportunity: the school can be organized in one single layer. In itself this can provide a blissful sense of extensiveness and openness, but moreover the horizontal character allows for every room to have direct access to the surrounding gardens.
CircuitThere are no dead ends. The circulation consists of a series of loops; connected circuits that generate a sense of continuity.
By sinking the building slightly into the ground the silhouette becomes friendly; the building will appear surprisingly modest; the roof is almost within reach.
Since the height difference between inside and outside equals the height of the school desks the windowsill potentially becomes workplace; it becomes a long additional table that can be used for studying, playing, as storage or as display. Three steps lead to sliding doors that open towards the garden.
The roof protrudes where necessary to prevent direct sunlight to enter. A porch comes into being, to hang out or for open-air working or studying; outdoor but covered.
The clusters for the primary school and the nursery school, the administration and other multifunctional spaces are all connected to the gym hall. As such a multiform building comes into being that embraces the outdoor space (and vice versa). These gardens have distinct functions and characters: kitchen garden, farm, park, playground, pitch, public square.
The parking is divided in two areas: a strip for daily use along the ‘kiss and ride loop’ with 22 spaces and a large square that can be used for special occasions, like a tournament inside the sports hall, and in the evenings. Normally this tarmac carpet will serve as an addition of playground. Now and then it can be turned into a plaza for neighborhood parties, markets or fairs.
School campus Knokke-Heist, Belgium 2011
Competition: 1st prize
Client: Gemeente Knokke-Heist
NL Architects: Pieter Bannenberg, Walter van Dijk, Kamiel Klaasse
Project Leader: Sarah Möller
Team: Michael Schoner and Gen Yamamoto with Shuichiro Mitomo, Justine Lemesre, Jasper Selen, Christian Asbø, Luca Kaptein Roodnat (cover drawing)
Structural Engineer: ABT Antwerpen- ABT België
Climate and Energy Consultant: CENERGIE cvba
Cost Consultant: Bremen Bouwadviseurs bv
See more renderings, plans and diagrams in the image gallery below. All images courtesy of NL Architects.