Paschalisschool (elementary school & child daycare)
A transparent school around a tree
Right on the spot where the new school is required to be build, a large old chestnut-tree is growing. By dividing the school into two volumes this significant tree will be preserved. The playgrounds and entrances are separated according to their different functions and are placed accordingly between the two volumes around the tree.
On a sunny day the sliding doors at the ground floor level offer the possibility to use part of the play-court in conjunction with the classrooms. The gym can also open the glass façade and allow for sports activities to flow outside.
Education is a process of guiding children towards independence. A transparent building helps for adequate surveillance.
The school is divided in three clusters. It’s important to parcel out a large school into smaller ’houses’’ in order to let 400 small children feel safe and at home.
The lower and middle classes are on both sides of the central hall. The upper level classrooms and the gymnasium are on the opposite side of the playground with childcare located in the other building strip.
The Aula (assembly hall) is the heart of the school. It contains the entrances to all classrooms, but is also a place to meet and gather around. The lowered floor of the playrooms in the back provide a nice plateau for stage-plays and performances.
In the walkabout around the assembly hall is the library. The upper level classes in the other building strip are connected to the assembly hall and library with a transparent bridge over the play-ground.
All the classrooms are divided in two zones. One zone for instruction by the teacher and the other for working independently with large transparent sliding doors extending the classrooms into the hall. By providing workplaces in the hallway the traffic area is used efficiently during non peek times and teachers also get more space and flexibility to teach.
The colourful skylights provide the study hall with daylight and gives the hallway a fun and friendly appearance.
The childcare centre is part of the overall plan and is open and approachable. It has its own entrance off the central square. The patio is the heart of the centre and is a safe place to play for younger children.
The school has its own gym with an unusual large glass façade. This room can also be used for parent nights or performances.
The new building must be able to adapt to developing strategies and visions on education. The building layout must be flexible. Smart double-use of spaces provide the necessary space for adjustments.
The classrooms of the after-school care can be occupied by the school during the day. In return the after-school care can use the school’s playground. The gym is also used by the school in the daytime and after school by local sport clubs or for neighbourhood events.
The education in Holland for children aged 4 to 12 is called elementary education. This school period is, besides the raising at home, the base of development of children, the base of their lives. The primary school must accompany the children during their development. It’s a search for everything they can do, their talents and possibilities. A search for what they can do and what they cannot do. As an individual and as a member of society, children will do this search with a lot of fantasy and an open view. Curious and every day more independent, children want to develop themselves in all openness and trust.
The school must guide them during this development, by giving them the attention they need, real attention, listen, observe in a dialogue and with real interest. To shape this search for development.
The school building must give people, big and small, space so they have attention for one another. An open building without dark allies and corners.
Within such a building children must be part of a small and reliable society. So the teachers can give the children the right attention, so everybody knows each other. For that our large school — over 400 children — had to be split. We divided it into three units —for 4 to 6 year olds — 7 to 10 year olds and 10 to 12 year olds. That makes it three schools and three society’s within a large one. Inside the school we must have a balance between individual education and the process of learning from one another. You need a place for group education, individual education, group activity and a place to work independently. You need space for creativity, expression and gymnastics.
There also must be a meeting point where children can present all kind of things in front of each other or their parents.
For the translation of my vision we looked for someone who can make the vision into sketches and maps and materials into a model. A person who gives our vision the right attention. After a few conversations the architect translated our vision into a model. Translation of a vision is a fascinating process; it’s an amalgamation between education and architecture. The building process shows — just like an educational process — that ideas, dreams and expectations can become reality.
The most difficult part of the process it the beginning of the actual building. You must stay focused on the vision itself, while building maps and specifications are taking over. Than the technical language of the teacher and the technical language of the architect and constructer must find an understanding. With everybody’s involvement you will get a result you can be proud of.