School & Gym , Kontich, 2012-2017

IEA i.c.w. PLUSoffice

IEA was engaged to design and build within the DBFM program - Schools of Tomorrow - a new school complex for the St Jozef primary school, in Kontich. This new program is realized in a green inner area of the urban block. Besides the mere realization of the necessary built square meters, the school has a clear pedagogical vision and the ambition to translate this vision into spatially and programmatically qualitative architecture. IEA therefore developed the concept of a 'Park School'. This concept implies that the school buildings are interwoven with green elements and that there are strong and direct relationships between the indoor and outdoor spaces.
Instead of bringing together the kindergarten, primary school, cafeteria and gymnasium and all administrative offices into one volume, IEA has opted to distribute the program over three smaller volumes. This results in a less compact volume with a bigger footprint, but these drawbacks are more than compensated by qualities such as individuality and identity of each school building, diverse and compelling spatial relationships between the various parts, better relations between the buildings and the site, respecting the neighbors' rights to light and sight, minimize shadows in the gardens of the neighbors, the potential for a flexible school, able to adapt in time. Because of this spatial configuration, each volume also develops its own form, character, spatial organization, specific embedment and direct relationship with the surrounding.
The playground and the covered play area are part of and enhance the base concept of 'school in the park'. To strengthen the park experience a green belt of trees, hedges and gardens is to be built all around the school and play area. The canopies of the covered playground are extensions of the interior ceilings. They extend outwards from the cylinder volumes in the refectory and form a "crown ceiling" that continues from interior to exterior. In addition to their function as ceiling inside and canopy outside, they are the connecting element between the three different school buildings and indicate the different entrance points. Finally, they also make an important contribution as an iconic element. They give the school a clear identity and character.