by Jincy IypeApr 03, 2023
In Groningen, a city in the north of the Netherlands, the historic Wierden settlements (traced as far as back as 500 BCE) claimed international fame when the sites were excavated between the late 19th and early 20th century. Located along the coastline on salt marshes, Weirden are residential mounds built to keep away flood water in undyked areas. Built on land that is naturally elevated, the form of the settlement evolved to manifest the social hierarchy, with the first wooden churches being built on the highest mound, in the centre of the city. Campus Eemsdelta in Appingedam imitates the formal logic of the Weirden from neighbouring Groningen, whose spatial configuration emerges as a central public podium on the highest mound, with smaller mounds accommodating individual "houses" radiating out of it.
Designed by Felixx Landscape Architects and Planners, together with De Unie Architecten, the campus is formalised as a cluster of six buildings (segregated by programme), distributed around the “heart” of the project and interspersed with landscape. The project grows around an elevated central island, on which resides the heart of the project—the Tree of Knowledge. Just below the island, an enclosed patio serves as a meeting place for students and the public alike.
The entrance on the ground floor leads to a dynamic schoolyard, a glass-fronted, hexagonal corridor cum atrium space that punctures into the entrance of individual “houses”, as well as connects the different public spaces across the six blocks, the podium, and the outdoor public spaces.
On the level above, a roof garden serves as an informal study area and outdoor classroom. The roof garden is conducive to creating a flexible space, owing to a seating arrangement that allows isolated study areas as well as collective spaces for group interactions, both formal and informal. An amphitheatre facing the tree, inadvertently draws the users’ attention to the heart of the project, while simultaneously connecting the indoor podium on the ground floor to the roof garden.
Three levels of secondary school (MBO, HAVO and VWO) constitute two of the blocks, while science, practical and sports buildings make up the remaining blocks in the cluster. Each having its own organisation, identity and appearance, the blocks cover a total area of 16,600 sqm, with an additional four hectares of outdoor spaces. The sports building, for instance, is a linear structure radiating out like a flange, identified by a series of contiguous pitched roofs and long windows. At the level of the roof garden, a set of steps on the exterior descend to an outdoor sports area. Overlooking a basketball court, the steps double up as stands for viewing the game. The practical building, on the other hand, is a small, shed-like structure, with layers of roofs sloping down in the direction of the podium.
Within the campus, the landscape design is interspersed between different blocks to facilitate the programme within each “house”. A garden nursery not only grows fruits and vegetables for the on-site restaurant but also provides a natural ground to study plant species, as well as the various processes of maintenance, pruning etc. A workshop square affords a space for students to study automobiles and construction methods for paving. Along the south, oriented east-west, an existing pond coupled with its ecological banks serves as a natural sanctuary to study underwater life and amphibian biodiversity.
Accommodating 1700 students collectively, Campus Eemsdelta provides an essential learning landscape for the schools and the public, within an environment that fosters a healthy relationship between the users, nature, and built form. By sharing its facilities with the neighbourhood of Eemsdelta, the school architecture integrates itself into the public infrastructure. Hosting a number of regional sports, and cultural events, the campus enables a natural exchange between the students and the public. By implementing a programmatic segregation of spaces, the designers have ensured independent circulation routes for the different users.
A public park sits at the notional intersection of the campus and the neighbourhood, sharing its facilities with the former. Located north of the campus, its informal environment presents an incidental buffer between the structured and formal shared space on the campus and the city outside. Cycling and walking tracks lead to the street beyond, connecting the park, and—by extension—the campus, to the cycling and walking networks of the neighbourhood at large.
While the architectural character of Campus Eemsdale remains robust, its inclusive and climate-adaptive disposition enables seamless integration of the campus into the social fabric of the neighbourhood.
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