The existing school Onze-Lieve-Vrouwecollege, located at the Frankrijklei in Antwerp, is due for expansion. Reason is the transfer of the pupils from the ‘sister-school De Dames’ to the site of the college in September 2018. As a result of a feasibility study, the school decided to demolish an existing building – designed by Rie Haan in the 1960’s – because it was outdated and no longer in use.
The program consists of 8 large classrooms, in addition several labs, a reception, an additional playground and an expansion of the current bicycle storage were added to the program. Due to the limited available area it was essential to find a maximum implementation in a compact building.
Another important aspect is the integration of a new building in the historical context. To create harmony, the height of the new building is evened out with the cornice of the surrounding 19th century building. Also the massive plinth is continued to create a continuous plinth next to the street, referring to a historic garden wall. The uniformed glass façade is composed by a simple rhythm, respecting the existing setting.
The basement and main floor receive the same footprint as the former building. As a result, various connections on the school site are easy to maintain. A new spacious entrance hall is added at street level, and serves as a direct entry for the Louiza-Marialei. The identity of school ‘De Dames’ is thereby preserved.
The new playground is placed on the first floor in order to create an interesting relation with the street and the existing playground on the main floor. With its materialization in yellow tiles the playground is the counterpart for the rather rational front façade.
Starting from the first floor, the volume becomes slimmer and deeper compared to the main. This intervention ensures that both playgrounds receive sufficient light and the classrooms on the upper floors obtain the surface they require. The classrooms are repeatedly linked per two by a movable wall to create a flexible learning space. The classes are organized around a spacious hall which focuses on additional activities.