The Zuiderkroon children’s centre was built as part of the Midden-Groningen school programme. The starting point of the project was to realise safe and future-proof educational facilities in an area affected by earthquakes and land shrinkage. Additionally, inclusiveness and multifunctionality are central to the design of Zuiderkroon. The children’s centre is located on the edge of the leafy urban village of Woldwijcken and fits in with the green character of the area.
Zuiderkroon children’s centre connects a state primary school and a primary school for special education and includes a nursery facility as well. All the spaces are linked by a central heart, into which light pours in through skylights. The 450 students are taught in high-ceilinged, bright classrooms and have their own kitchen for practical education. In addition, they have access to a technology room and two connected, ultra-modern gymnasiums. In the design of the interior spaces, a connection with the environment has also been sought. The indoor space is directly connected to a pergola and the outdoor space by means of large sliding glass doors, meaning that lessons can take place outside as well as inside.
An important design assignment was to model the location’s large volume in such a way that it appears as compact and attractive. Because the building volume is stepped in height and staggered in length and width, it is more in line with a child’s experience level. This creates all kinds of places, corners, and spaces in and around the building where students can come together. The different levels are clearly visible. The bottom level has a concrete finish that makes the structure apparent. This gives the building a rugged character. The top layer is finished with handmade tiles designed in collaboration with ceramic factory Koninklijke Tichelaar. Green and blue pigments are incorporated into the tiles. Because they are glazed, they reflect the sky and surrounding trees and this combination of different types of green result in an attractive appearance in any weather. In the design of the interior spaces, much attention has been paid to the transition between inside and outside. By means of large glass frames with doors, there is plenty of contact with the outdoors. A pergola forms the transition between the inside and the outside, so that lessons can also be given outdoors. Careful consideration has been given to the high-quality acoustics and finishes inside. All the interior façades, stairs and ceilings are made of materials with a natural look and feel. Many different places in the interior have been designed to match the child’s scale and functionality.
“Three things make this project special. Firstly, the fact that both special and regular primary education come together here. Secondly, the fact that two public schools merged to move into the building. And thirdly of course the beautiful building itself. I am really proud of this one. It has been a very long process to get it done, but with everyone involved, it has been done in an incredibly beautiful way.” – Erik Drenth, Education alderman at the municipality of Midden-Groningen
De Zwarte Hond is a design agency for architecture, urban design, and strategy, with offices in Groningen, Rotterdam, and Cologne. Through a combination of social commitment and craftsmanship, the firm creates high-quality projects that are sensitive to their context, the needs of users, and the vision of the customer.