School Brussels, Belgium

In the North of Brussels, a new school complex will be built, containing a day-care center, a primary school, a secondary school and two gyms. This extensive program is ingeniously fitted onto a plot that is in principal not big enough.

A challenging location
The school complex will accommodate a day-care center for 72 children, a primary school for 456 kids, a secondary school for 288 pupils and two sports facilities. Each of the schools will have their own recognizable identity, their own entrance and a separate schoolyard. All of this has to fit on a plot of just over 5.500 square meters. The urban framework poses extra limitations: it has been decided upon to only build alongside of the street, creating a closed city block. The maximum height of the new building is 15 meters. The maximum depth 12,15 meters. In fact: it just does not fit. Besides that, a height difference in the plot of nearly 7 meters complicates the project. Granting all wishes within these strict constraints was a complex puzzle. It required intensive cooperation and careful calibration between architecture, landscape architecture and engineering.

Stacked landscape
In order to realize the whole program within the limitations of the plot, part of the building is shoved under the surface. The schoolyards are situated on different levels. The result is a stacked landscape, inspired by Asian rice fields, or the hanging gardens of Babylon. The gyms are built completely underground. The kindergarten classrooms are grouped around a sunken, atrium-like courtyard. Above that, the primary schoolyard is located. An indoor bicycle parking separates this area from the secondary school. On the roof of the bicycle parking a lounge area is created with ping-pong tables. Covering all that is a large awning; Belgian regulations require schools to provide sheltered outdoor spaces for their students. On top of this awning, a vegetable garden is established. The different levels naturally create separate outdoor areas. The transitions provide exciting play-zones with slopes, slides and stairs. At the same time, the whole complex is accessible for disabled people.

Ingenious water retention
The City of Brussels is very ambitious when it comes to climate resilience. It requires half of the plots surface to be permeable, so rainwater can infiltrate into the ground. Because of the intensive use of space, it is not possible to meet this demand. Instead, an ingenious system has been designed making careful processing of rainwater possible. Roofs are covered with grass and succulents where possible. Rainwater that cannot infiltrate directly into the ground, flows through gutters and a waterfall into a buffer container. This water is later used to flush the toilets. In the kindergarten courtyard, the rainwater ends up in a decorative basin, from which it can seep into an infiltration crate and into the ground. The water system connects the separate schoolyards. At the same time it serves as a stimulating, educational playground.

  • Location: Mutsaardlaan 61, 1020 Brussel, BelgiĆ«