Dutch firm Korteknie Stuhlmacher Architecten covered the facade of this school in Rotterdam with black and white tiles arranged in patterns that reference typical Dutch interior decoration (+ slideshow).
The new A.J. Schreuderschool was designed by Korteknie Stuhlmacher Architecten for children with learning disabilities, and the tiled decoration was added to give the exterior spaces a more domestic and familiar appearance.
"The pattern is based on classical patterns used in many traditional Dutch houses for various purposes, usually entrances, and kitchens," architect Mechthild Stuhlmacher told Dezeen.
"We used the tiles on the exterior as an ornament but also to make the outdoor spaces more room-like, as if we are referring to an interior," she added.
The architects also invited pupils to create unique colourful tiles that are incorporated into the facade near the entrance.
"We proposed the involvement of the pupils, because we were impressed by the artistic production and the creativity of the mentally handicapped children who happen to be taught by a very engaged, creative art teacher," said Stuhlmacher. "The black and white pattern has been designed as a rather powerful framework to integrate the pupil's work in a larger whole."
The school is situated in the postwar neighbourhood of Lombardijen and was laid out to establish a stronger relationship with its surroundings than the majority of its 1960s-built neighbours.
Two connected buildings housing the classrooms and a large sports hall are positioned on opposite corners of the plot, creating a pair of outdoor spaces that are partly enclosed by the two blocks.
The courtyard facing the street at the front of the school acts as a playground and public square leading to the main entrance.
At the back of the school is a larger space used as a garden for play and teaching activities centred on nature and sustainability.
"The two outdoor spaces have a very different character - one is very open to the neighbourhood while the enclosed garden on the other side is much more private," explained Stuhlmacher. "For pupils with a mental handicap both qualities are essential, and the school can divide groups according to the abilities of the children."
Inside the main school building, the reception area connects to a corridor that leads past labs dedicated to skills including art, music and computing, towards classrooms that face the street or the garden.
On the other side of the reception is the entrance to the sports hall, which features windows at floor level and a roof supported by chunky timber beams.
Circulation spaces at the centre of the school feature large skylights that introduce natural light to both levels of the building.
Materials throughout have been chosen for their muted tones and to help reduce noise levels in line with the needs of many pupils for a neutral and tranquil environment.
Here's a project description from the architects:
On the site of a former technical school in Rotterdam Lombardijen a new school for children with learning disabilities has been built. Lombardijen is a typical post-war neighbourhood consisting of a repetitive mix of low-rise and high-rise blocks of flats.
The neighbourhood is urgently in need of technical, spatial and social transformation. This especially applies to the public space; as in many neighbourhoods of the 1960s the area between the building blocks is rather large and unarticulated, poorly maintained and hardly used. The problem is partly caused by the existing architecture that fails to establish a mutual relationship between indoor and outdoor space. The project for the new school attempts to rethink this relationship while engaging with the existing context.
The project consists of two loosely connected volumes, a two storey compact building block, which is the actual school building, and a double sports hall. Both volumes are placed in the far corners of the generously dimensioned plot. The buildings are complemented by two semi-enclosed outdoor spaces. Facing the Spinozaweg there is an open, paved and rather urban square that will be used as playground.
On the other side there will be a large, intensively planted, enclosed garden. This garden offers space for recreation and play and serves as an outdoor 'classroom' for the subject 'green' that will be part of the curriculum in the new school. The design of the façades, entrances and the plinth supports the desired close relationship between inside and outside.
The curriculum focuses on three main subjects: living, working and leisure. These subjects are taught in specific classrooms, such as the living room, the kitchen and the art studio. These classrooms are situated on the ground floor facing the street and establish, quite literally, the connection between the school and the outside world.
The rest of the school, with all regular classrooms facing the garden, has a more private character. Specific attention has been paid to the design of the spacious circulation area in the centre of the building. Generous roof lights and voids allow for daylight to reach the ground floor, while respecting the need of many of the pupils for a calm environment avoiding stimuli such as noise, too vivid colours and forms.
Within the budgetary limits of public school buildings we designed a sustainable structure with flexible and timeless plans and a low energy installation; in the future the school can easily be adjusted to the needs of other types of education. The sports hall combines a regular steel structure with an expressive timber roof and appears as a completely timber-lined, roof-lit space. The plinth around the building has been clad with ceramic tiles in different black and white patterns made by the remarkably artistic pupils.