Zwanebloem Inside Out
A child has three teachers: the first are the other children, the second is the schoolteacher and the third is the spatial environment. (Swedish saying)
Zwanebloem INSIDE OUT is a proposal to transform the existing 1970ies elementary school into an “Integrated Child Center”, consisting of an elementary school, nursery, daycare and community center, embedded into a unique green outdoor domain. The combination of these functions into one complex makes it possible to provide a consistent environment for the development of the child, guided by a single pedagogical vision. Zwanebloem’s vision promotes the idea of the school as foremost the place for meeting and interacting with the others, besides being a learning environment. The child becomes part of a larger whole, learning how to live together with the other children and teachers, in a community where everyone feels safe, secure and valued. The educational vision is based on a play-learning process in which the child is encouraged to shape his/her own playing and learning environment indoors as well as outdoors, in the school’s extensive and exceptional green domain. Besides the usual activities like sports, play and gardening, it is the school’s ambition to regularly organize here outdoor classes, reinvigorating the open-air school Dutch tradition.
The original building is a standardized design of the “corridor school” type with two rows of class rooms arranged on the two sides of a wider corridor area, where several communal functions are organized. A central patio that used to bring light in the central area had to make way in recent years to an enclosed playroom. Subsequent adaptations of the layout to incorporate new functions have compromised the original clear spatial design. Despite large windows in the classrooms, the physical connection between classroom and the outdoors is missing.
In order to meet the ambitions for outdoor education and the new pedagogical vision, we have literally turned the school inside out. Each classroom is provided with its own little entrance building situated in front of the existing façade and containing the garderobe and a toilet. Like this, each class has its own address at the outside domain, situated on a path that encircles the school. Each year the children move to the next class, completing during their educational cycle at Zwanebloem the complete circle. Two opposite entrance buildings define the space for an outdoor classroom, which can be used by two adjoining classes. In the other direction, this outdoor classroom is equipped with two long benches: one formed by the oversized windowsill in the original façade and the other by a large new planter containing the educational garden for each class.
Inside the school building, the original construction with columns allows for variations in the layout of the classrooms. Instead of the classic setup with large classrooms along a corridor, a new layout is proposed with “core classrooms” and “learning plazas”. Each classroom is compressed into a more compact space where the teachers can instruct the children, while the rest of the space forms together with the corridor a “learning plaza”, an open collective space shared by all the classes, where the children are encouraged to find their own place for self-study or work in groups. The resulting plan is a layered composition of parallel bands, offering a variety of spaces and learning conditions from private, quiet and intimate, to open, lively and collective.
At the core of the building, the wide corridor is extended to form a cross-like figure combining all the collective functions. The vertical arm of the cross separates and at the same time connects the school on the western side and the nursery/daycare on the eastern side. Here the new central entrance is situated as well as the coffee corner, refectory, library and meeting rooms. The horizontal arm of the cross accommodates the central kitchen, meeting rooms, a new patio that brings light and green back into the heart of the building and the playroom. The removable walls of the playroom convey the possibility to create a central plaza for school events or neighborhood gatherings at the heart of the cross.
Besides on spatial aspects, the transformation also focuses on climatological aspects, providing new insulation of the outer skin and a new ventilation system. The ventilation system is realized centrally for the daycare/nursery and decentral for the classrooms and “learning plazas”. The decentral ventilation units are placed on top of the toilet/garderobe in each of the new entrance buildings, integrating the ventilation grills as decoration in the facades.
The research was commissioned by Mevrouw Meijer, an idealistic research platform that aims to improve the architecture of schools through initiating research by design trajectories. The foundation is committed to the revaluation of existing real estate, acknowledging the societal meaning of the school building and the more prominent role of architecture in this.
- Year 2021
- Location Zwaanshoek
- Program primary school
- Status ongoing
- Thijs van Bijsterveldt
- Oana Rades
- Harm Timmermans
- Agathe Zuber
- Danai Porfyropoulou
- Yang Bai