Today, the young primary school De Schatkist (The Treasure Chest) moves into a former office building in the middle of an industrial site in Haren, Brussels. Rather than adding classrooms, the required renovation and extension concern the creation of a safe home from home for children.
Tomorrow's De Schatkist will therefore be a tranquil oasis amidst an asphalt desert. We present a building that is inward-looking, as if it were a cocoon, but at the same time shows an inviting face to the neighbourhood. Parallel to the street, the support structure of the existing building was recovered in order to facilitate logistic functions. Perpendicular to the street, however, alongside the present building, a wooden structure of six pitched roofs was added. Underneath these roofs, the classrooms are located, while the zone in front of the classrooms acts as a connector. This generous transit area constitutes the school's front door and functions as a classroom, day care centre and library. The distance to the garden wall and the site's boundaries was purposely given spacious dimensions, to allow the space in between to be used as an outdoor classroom.
Considering the limited size of the site, it was decided to design the covered part of the playground in such a way that the flat roofs are also accessible as play areas. The covered part, in turn, provides room for a gym, which is located directly opposite the connector. The open facade of both parts allows this area to be used as an extension of the playground.
As a result of the consistent use of a wooden prefab construction, both the building time and the inconvenience for the school were minimised. The open ground plan reinforces the relationship between the classrooms, as well as with the outdoor space and the connector. The rhythmic support structure allows for flexible interpretations and the possibility to close off the building in zones. In this way, optimal use of the rooms can also be made after school hours. Tomorrow's De Schatkist will therefore not be a school, but a living space for local residents.