Paleizenstraat 153 - 1030 Brussels
T 022444430 F 022444431 E

extension and refurbishment of a school

Location :
Client :
City of Antwerp
Cost :
850.000,00 EUR excl VAT
Category :
Refurbishment and upgrading of a professional secondary school in Antwerp, the programme of which has been modified several times. In addition to a lot of less-visible interventions all over the school, three new workshops are created.

The woodwork workshop is simply located in an existing gymnastics hall, without fuss. The two others are small pavilions, like rough gems in the back courtyard.

After a new tramway line found its way to the back of the courtyard, the second workshop was built. Intended to house a textile section, it became the house of the bakery apprentices instead- and they do bake delicious things there.

The concrete beams with variable inertia follow the strange irregular trapezoid geometry of the plot. The resulting space is distorted and squeezed between existing constructions, but developed into a very quiet and playful space, open to the courtyards.

Originally meant as a space for masonry apprentices, the arched brickwork now hosts bike repairs classes. This original programme is reflected in AgwA's choice to use masonry in this extension. It is also for this reason that the design was limited to the shell without finishing touches, to keep the techniques visible for educational purposes.

The interior space is structured by masonry arches. Some of them have a primary structural role as they support the pre-slabs of the roof, while others are secondary, as they provide the bracing of the primary arches.

The thickness of the arches was determined simply by the length of the brick, which makes them rather thin (only 20 centimetres). To maintain this thickness over the entire surface of the arches, the bricks were placed in the same direction, in a succession of superimposed arches, as opposed to the traditional technique of a single arch framed by a “wall” filling. In retrospect, the volumetric cost (€/m3) of building arches is rather high, but the quantities much lower than in a traditional wall. This solution proved to be very cost- and material-efficient.

To support and frame the superposed arches, thin concrete columns are placed on either side of the arches to contain them. Similarly, concrete brackets are placed in the lower part of the primary arches to avoid crushing the bricks.

The exterior façade of the volume is curved, and why not, brick is a modular material that lends itself very well to this exercise. The brick is simply covered with insulation and a thin layer of white glazed ceramic tiles. Here again, the constructive principles are directly readable, as the exterior finish has no structural role at all.

In order to extend the exterior spaces inside, the pavement floor is extended from the courtyard into the interior of the workshop. Cheap yet robust concrete slabs of 30x30 cm usually implemented for sidewalks cover both interior and exterior spaces.

The main ambitions of the Bredastraat project were above all to conceive a legible, practical, and flexible structure through the playful yet pragmatic use of masonry arches.