In a former church in Anderlecht, Osk-ar realized the very first school for teenagers in Belgium. The architects looked for an appropriate set of spatial instruments for the school’s specific educational project. Pioneering work that could change the educational landscape.
The church, presbytery and outbuildings of Sint-Vincentius a Paulo in the Anderlecht neighbourhood of Scheut now make up a school for teenagers, one that only welcomes pupils from the third level of primary education (5th and 6th years) and the first level of secondary education (1st and 2nd years). A school for teenagers groups pupils according to their interests, talents and skills. Osk-ar was part of the ‘think team’ for the school for teenagers from the start in order to devise a spatial interpretation of the new educational concept. The architects designed a broad, open infrastructure with flexible learning and consultation areas. There are no fixed places or separate classrooms (except for management and administration). There is one vast space that can be divided up for small or large group activities, or for individual work or supervision. Children use laptops, mentors a whiteboard on wheels. Partitions, cupboards and other freestanding acoustic furniture – custom-designed by the architects – ensure a certain division into zones. It is a balancing act between providing a general view and creating a sense of security.
Near the reception hall, in the heart of the school, is a wide gallery where, in the morning, mentors and pupils go over the themes and tasks of the day together. Deeper in the building, a teaching kitchen takes centre stage. There is a stage area for performances and a music recording studio which, due to its intimate atmosphere and muted acoustics, is also a suitable place for one-to-one conversations between teenagers and mentors. The former church, complete with large, coloured stained-glass windows and marble-clad buttresses, now houses a gymnasium, a multipurpose room, a kitchen and a bar. According to the concept of the community school, these can also be used outside of school hours for community activities. A children’s climbing wall could be built in the church tower.
In this extremely dense urban area, arranging playgrounds, outdoor rooms and patios of different sizes and at different levels is a bit of a puzzle. Both ends of the school site are connected by a play street, which all the buildings give out onto. The inner courtyard, staggered on three levels, is not only the main playground, but also forms the backbone of the entire site. But there are also other outdoor play, sports and relaxation areas. There is a forecourt with a patio on Ninoofsesteenweg, safely separated by a large arch construction. On the other side of the site, on the transversal ‘superstructure’ – a school for 15- to 18-year-olds – is a partially covered climbing frame with stunning views of the city. The various roofs of the school complex are home to a vegetable garden as well as to chickens and rabbits.
The unusual educational concept of the school for teenagers has led to a typological shift and a new set of spatial instruments. In this sense, the school in Anderlecht is much more than just another school of the future.