Stéphane Beel Architecten

Primary School for Special Education . Herentals

Stéphane Beel Architecten . photos: © Luca Beel . + Vlaams Bouwmeester

The design reinterprets the characteristic elements of a “school” and combines them in a single building; the entrance, the classroom, outdoor space, play areas, etc

The design brief requires creativity: an extensive programme (minimum 9 classrooms, a multifunctional hall (200 m2), sanitary facilities including showers, one room for individual teaching, five therapy rooms, one physiotherapy room, one computer classroom, staffroom and administration) on only 900 m2. Stéphane Beel Architecten won the Open Call with a good quality and ‘simple’ design that not only meets the demands but also complies to the physical and financial norms.
There is an interesting division on the school site between the built-up area and the green area. The built-up area with buildings for part-time education and the old nursery school is located along the north edge towards the centre of Herentals. The proposal of Beel Architecten strengthens the existing structure: the built-up strip is completed; a green buffer protects the site from the ring road; a school square at the front provides access to the site and the green space at the back is transformed by a few simple interventions into a number of places each with their own texture and character.
The ground plan for the new school has the same sort of self-evident character: two lines of classrooms are arranged to the left and right of the communal area and facilities. The central strip literally and metaphorically serves as the pivot of the design: various functions and atmospheres are created in an ingenious way on a limited surface area. The two-storey ‘heart’ of the school contains the multifunctional room, the physiotherapy room, the circulation, the technical rooms and an outdoor patio. With strategically placed sliding doors, these areas can be used either individually or as one large space. With the retractable roof, the patio can also be used as an indoor or outdoor area, which increases the quality and flexibility of the school. The administration and therapy rooms are also located in this pivotal area; the series of spaces on two storeys form the façade of the school.

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