Overview: This school project, located in Tongeren, Belgium, was one of a design competition winning bundle of four schools that were part of the Belgian Government PPP Schools for Tomorrow programme.
The existing school comprised a collection of nineteenth and twentieth Century buildings set on a tight urban site forming a series of courtyards. The brief was to provide a total of 6,420sqm of new accommodation consisting of a teaching block of 2,080sqm on the east side of the main ‘front’ yard forming the third side to a courtyard which remains open to Truidersteenweg to the south. A second building of 3,240sqm was required on open ground to the rear of the school to accommodate technical engineering workshops and classrooms along with a 1,100sqm Sports Hall. A critical challenge set out in the brief was to design the Technology building in a manner that students of technology and trades would been seen as equal to those in the academic streams.
Archaeology: The town of Tongeren is built on the site of a large Roman town of which there are extensive remains visible above ground and significant archaeology below ground. The school site is directly inside the line of the Roman town wall. The wall is buried in a 3m high berm along Legioenenlaan (Legion Street) to the north. Further along the street to the east and west there are significant exposed parts of the wall. It was a requirement that the site of the Sports and Technology building be excavated to a depth of eight meters prior to the commencement of works. This requirement combined with the natural fall of the site to the north, towards Legioenenlaan, influenced the design significantly resulting in a lower ground floor being set four meters below the level of the upper school yard area and the unusual provision of an underground staff carpark below the hall.
Our Approach: The teaching block to the front, located a very constrained footprint, is designed as a narrow plan, four storey building with single loaded circulation. Most of the teaching accommodation faces west overlooking the courtyard and the elevation along the Beukenbergweg has limited fenestration to minimise views to and from the existing four storey apartment block, a distance of only 10 m across the street. This east elevation is modulated with recesses and setbacks to create an interesting street scape while delivering all the required accommodation. The building is now the main entrance to the school campus and the projecting forms and substantial overhang of the upper floors were designed to give the entrance appropriate significance at this important street corner location. The ground floor of the building is a large open plan assembly and general purpose area which opens directly to the sun filled courtyard. In the courtyard hard landscaping and seating facilitate recreation and socialising. The upper floors accommodate a range of general classrooms and specialist rooms for home economics, daily living skills, dress making and childcare.
The Technology and Sports Buildings were designed as a series of pavilions, stepping down the falling profile of the site, linked together by a large two storey entrance foyer and concourse, entered from the school yard at the upper level and at the lower level directly from Beukenbergweg. This second campus entrance is adjacent to a much-used school bus stop on Legioenenlaan. It also serves for after-hours community use of the sports facilities. This link block has become the fulcrum of much social activity and student interaction. More than half of the school population arrive and depart via this entrance and pass by the workshops and the large glazed screens giving open view to the sports hall activities. This two storey space accommodates areas for project display, seating and general milling of students. The Sport hall divides into three separate sport areas of 366sqm with associated changing, shower and locker areas. The Technology blocks accommodate large mechanical, construction and technology workshops along with a number of general classrooms.
An underground staff carpark is located below the Sports Hall and is also accessed directly off Beukenbergweg.
Materials: Belgium has a long tradition of brick manufacture and a wide choice of brick type and colour is readily available. The existing building are generally of brick of varying shades from dark red to dull grey/brown. For these two significant new interventions on the campus we chose a bright orange red brick to distinguish the buildings from the existing and yet to harmonise with them. Light grey aluminium brise soleil and windows contrast with the brick and bring life to the elevations.
The buildings are designed to be highly sustainable with high levels of insulation and airtightness. The requirement to ensure good air quality at all times led to the installation of whole school ventilation systems which facilitates full control of CO2 levels at all times of the year. Such an installation requires significant additional plant equipment and the associated space to accommodate it.
Completion Date: bundle of 4 schools completed, 27th Oct 2017
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