The Netherlands’ Ministry of Education has announced the winners of its eighth annual School Building Prize, recognising projects in the primary and secondary education sectors. The ministry awards this prize to encourage school boards to be visionary, creative and professional when building new schools and rebuilding or renovating existing ones. The aim is to provide infrastructure that facilitates the education process as much as possible. The theme of the School Building Prize 2006 was “My school is unique because…”.
This theme was chosen because an increasing number of schools are developing, in co-operation with municipal councils, architects and others, new concepts which reshape the educational process. These relate to the “broad school” (a school that houses other facilities such as a nursery, a library or a health centre), multifunctional buildings, pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO in the Netherlands) and general upper secondary education (HAVO/VWO), practical education and facilitating new study-work environments. These initiatives are leading to ever more unique and appealing buildings. The ministry aims to link these ideas to the School Building Prize.
OBS Het Zand and Montessori School Arcade, Utrecht
The School Building Prize 2006 had a record number of entrants: 230 primary and secondary schools. The number of “broad schools” and multifunctional spaces increased with respect to previous years. Over 75% of submissions were new building projects. In the end, the jury chose eight finalists, described below.
The submissions provided a wealth of information about education and its facilities. Today the relationship between indoor and outdoor space is regularly used in a creative manner, sometimes offering users a particularly special environment. Outdoor areas placed on levels other than the ground level is no longer an exception. The members of the jury also noticed that the school interior no longer stands apart but is integrated into the overall concept. The interior influences the building’s image and atmosphere, and sometimes hardly has a school-like character.
The jury was also impressed by several renovation projects in which monuments were completely rebuilt and turned into school buildings though retaining their own character. By preserving and making efficient use of a monument while creating a unique school, these projects meet several community needs simultaneously.
The jury assessed the applications on several criteria:
The vision of the school board.
The quality of education.
The quality of architectonic and urban development.
The degree of multifunctionality.
The degree of flexibility and accessibility.
The quality of materials used.
Attention to sustainability, the environment and energy use.
Financing and utilisation.
The jury selected one primary and one secondary school winner. Honourable mentions were given to two projects considered promising but which still have certain issues to address. There are four runners up.
PC Primary School Prinsehaghe, The Hague
The jury felt that the Prinsehaghe
is a good example of a building that actively contributes to a redeveloped inner city area. It is not a spectacular or innovative building; but it is one that has turned out well because it had a well-defined concept based on a clear educational message and because the school board knew exactly what it wanted. In order to avoid building a large school, the board and administration chose instead to make use of many local services. They have successfully developed a school for a specific target group of children. The building is characterised by classical simplicity, a healthy atmosphere achieved by the choice of materials, and a distinguishing gable that is beautiful and solid. Other notable features are an impressive stairway and the multifunctional classrooms.
Metzo College, Doetinchem
The eye-catching building of Metzo College (formerly Brewinc College) was chosen unanimously by the jury members. They were particularly impressed by the role and vision of the school board, which has carried out work on functionally and technically obsolete buildings for many years The administration and teachers collaborated to develop a new, co-ordinated educational vision for this VMBO, which became the starting point for the design and style of the building. The jury found that the way in which the building has been set in the landscape, incorporating the environment into the architecture, was both daring and well accomplished. The building impressively expresses its educational function. The school board has optimised the study rooms by integrating theory and practice to the full and by making the circulation area a part of the learning process.
OBS De Globe/Johannnesschool (De Kikker), Amsterdam
These two schools made for a project that invokes associations like daring, adventurous and exciting. The building is a central point in the neighbourhood, daily drawing the attention of local residents. The main action takes place on the front side, where the monumental stairway faces the neighbourhood like a showcase. Both schools offer an attractive spatial programme, including innovations such as corridors with intimate workplaces and a cloakroom cleverly and colourfully integrated into the walls. The passageways function as an extension of the classrooms, sharing attractive wooden furniture. The entresols in the classrooms make the education process more exciting by allowing different forms of work. The schools have developed their own interpretation of a meeting room.
OBS Het Zand and Montessori School Arcade, Utrecht
In terms of urban development and architecture, the jury’s opinions were unanimously positive, but the building lacks a well-defined vision on the part of the school board. It is a commendable building and an adventure in all respects. The school appears parked like a spaceship in the industrial area of Leidsche Rijn. To design such a form for a developing community shows daring. The jury appreciated that this community building will impose new requirements on the school board with regard to long-term district planning and managing of the recent neighbourhood. Interestingly the project is located next to an old industrial chimney stack, which contrasts sharply with the futuristic building.
Ypenburg Lyceum, The Hague
The jury found the Ypenburg Lyceum to be a quality and challenging school building with a dedicated administration that operates from a clear educational vision. The spatial programme is simple, but effectively and efficiently achieved. Students do not encounter any physical barriers; the multifunctional corridors flow from one to another. The school breathes an atmosphere of openness where it is a pleasure to learn. The large aula has a multifunctional setup and functions as a meeting area for students who form groups throughout the space during breaks. The school makes use of the large sports hall and the outdoor areas. As an active sports school, the Ypenburg Lyceum is part of a neighbourhood sports network.
Leidsche Rijn College, Utrecht
The Leidsche Rijn College is a monumental building with exemplary architecture. Many of the lessons in the Leidsche Rijn College are taught in a traditional frontal way. A positive exception is formed by the learning areas where large classrooms are surrounded by various kinds of rooms which are directly accessible and allow different types of work. The rooms’ transparent walls facilitate supervision for the teachers. The central entrance area, which serves as a meeting place and integrates the inside and outside spaces with each other, works well and is roomy. Its large stairway serves as a platform which can be used for performances. The connection to the rather small canteen is neatly designed and is decorated with a work of art on the wall. However, the school’s dominant colour, a vulnerable white, makes maintenance difficult.
Hervormd Lyceum West, Amsterdam
The school has rendered a clear vision of the educational concept in a broad way in the new building design. The starting point was to actively involve the students and the neighbourhood, which seems to have been successful. The school profiles itself as a “typical” Dutch school. An important underlying assumption was that a transparent and relaxed organisation makes for a safe environment and creates the best chances of mutual respect between students and teachers. The jury appreciated the central parts of the building, in particular the connection between the theatre space and the aula. They noted that it is precisely the old part of the school which is sober but open and light, that has been made to function harmoniously with the new part.
Het Spectrum, The Hague
The jury was most enthusiastic about Het Spectrum. This multicultural school combines two important social themes in an appealing way: encounter and supervision have been incorporated into a model with a vibrant heart. The architect produced an impressive piece of urban development work. Cleverly set in a challengingly small space, the building has the same characteristics as the neighbourhood and respects the rhythm of the street. Discipline, order and regularity are important for this target group of difficult students, and these qualities are reflected in the building’s design. The sober colour scheme and layout were chosen to avoid distracting the students. Efficient use of the limited space, in addition to being an architectural success, dictates the way in which the school’s ambitious education programme can be developed.
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Amsterdam, The Netherlands