Elementary School ‘Dender’ was the winning project by Compagnie-O architecten in 2003, and was recently completed. There are 8 new classes, a polyvalent space, reception and sanitary have been extended to the existing school.
+ Project description courtesy of Compagnie-O architecten
The existing primary school of Geraardsbergen nests itself in an absurd inner area in the center of this historical Flemish town. By means of the formula of the “Open Oproep”, a closed architectural competition organized by the “Vlaams Bouwmeester”, the question for a considerable extension/addition of the existing school with 8 classes and a polyvalent space came to our attention. We decided in our sketch-proposal to separate the polyvalent space and classes from each other in order to protect the scarce rest space of the building site. The project won the competition in 2003, the execution started in 2007 and was completed in 2009.
The volume carrying the classes has been designed as a vertical thin disk ( 6meters by 36meters and app. 10 meters high), which is smacked against the existing building. The old broad hallways and staircases on the different levels are reused for the access to the new wing. By recycling square meters on this side, we were able to offer the school larger classes. By connecting to the existing wing, we were obliged to take over the height of the older classes, which is now a days quiet luxurious.
The polyvalent space, mostly used as sport hall, has, in contrast to the class-wing- a strong horizontal character and is therefore (as compact as possible) built in the inner-area against the existing school. The façades of the bold volume accompany the children, parents and teachers as they enter their school. A large steel canopy crowns the hall and marks the renewed entrance area with the school reception at the end.
The polyvalent space also functions independently from the school by the addition of an extra entrance, facing the street. This is an important aspect for the school, aiming to be a “broad school” in the near future.
The initial concept in short
The polyvalent space as a cobblestone, the new classes as a casco-structure against the existing school.
The interface between old and new is “covered” by a 36meter long multipurpose cupboard. This volume, which changes from library to small working spaces to a technical box, can be used both from the hallway and the new classes. Above this piece of furniture, glass is used to separate the new classes from the existing hallways, this to ensure the overall transparency.
The architectural result on a larger scale:
The class volume functions as a new architectural interface, a glass curtain in front of the old school. This new façade is materialized in a patchwork of five types white-colored glass with varying transparency. Screen-printed toughened glazing with an image of a weird jumping little fellow completes it. The 6 meters slim volume ensures a fast face-lift of the whole of the existing school, which struggled with its waggish image anyway.
This volume also functions as an extra, pure architectonic insulation for the greater part of the old north facade, making the whole more sustainable.
With this project, we try to escape from the predominating “disneyfication” of children in general. We think children are made babyish, denying them to be childlike. In response to this social phenomenon, we leave them- children and teachers- in a provocative, slightly bizarre environment, hoping they’ll respond to it in an authentic way, regardless of the pure aesthetic consequences. Therefore, the architecture is outspoken.
This is no nice-nice design.
+ Project credits / data
Project: Elementary School ‘Dender’
Address: Sasweg – Kattenstraat Z/N, 9500 Geraardsbergen
Graduate: elementary school (pre-primary and primer)
nr. of students: 250 pre-primary and 380 primer
Competition: Open Oproep, Vlaams Bouwmeester
Date: competition: July 2003, execution: 2007-2009
Program: Addition to an existing school consisting of 8 new classes, a polyvalent space, reception and sanitary 850m2
Architects: Compagnie-O bvba | Joke Vermeulen & Francis Catteeuw
Collaborators: Joke Vermeulen, Francis Catteeuw, Geert Pauwels, Kim Pecheur, Kate Davies, Steven Van Hoorde, Renée Steyaert, Nel Vereeken
Client: Education of the Flemish Community, section infrastructure – region West, Schoonmeerstraat 26, 9000 Gent