atelier PRO architects | Rudolf Steiner College and School, Haarlem

Atelier PRO has transformed a school building from the 1960s into a primary and secondary school; together with the newly built secondary school next door, a new educational ensemble was created: Rudolf Steiner School and Folk High School. Both buildings are designed as much as possible in accordance with the design language of the Waldorf school: natural materials and bevelled corners have been used, just as the schools are connected to each other in order to share functions. At the same time, the design also fits into studio PRO’s vision of school construction, as a healthy and comfortable climate for education and development.

Two buildings, an educational philosophy
Due to the growing number of students, there was a need to expand the Haarlem Rudolf Steiner School – to the basic education – and Rudolf Steiner College – a school community for the youth educations. The structure of the education, with a coherent learning process from 4 to 18 years, requires a coherent location so that the students at the two schools can easily share functions. This location was found a stone’s throw from the other company. An existing L-shaped school building from the 1960s has been converted into a primary school, while a new secondary school has been built next to it.

For the primary school, it was important to use the structure of the existing building as optimally as possible; from a sustainability point of view, but also because adaptations would be difficult and expensive. From the free school philosophy, there was a desire to break through the tight corridor structure and give the school a heart. Therefore, the entrance has been moved to the armpit of the building; Space has been created for a generous reception adjacent to the media library and the kitchen. A transparent intermediate building has also been added, the so-called ‘connection’ that connects the School and the Folk High School. This includes two new large rooms: the playroom and the eurithmi room. The college’s large theater hall can also be reached via the intermediate building. In this way, the two schools merge physically and educationally.

Because the new folk high school had to be located in the limited space between the existing school building and the street, a compact design in three layers was chosen. Two large rooms are located in the center of the building: the large theater hall and above it the gymnasium. The rest of the program encapsulates this.

At the front, the building goes down to the schoolyard. This softens the slender, orthogonal character and creates special roof terraces. These function as a safe extension of the schoolyard and as an outdoor teaching space – and thus connect programmatically and visually with the Waldorf philosophy. The central entrance with the canteen is located in the schoolyard. Via a grandstand staircase, students can from here walk further up the building through hallways that are always slightly curved.

Theater hall: central ‘learning material’
The large theater hall and the gymnasium have a wooden shell with a special shape; this internally softens the orthogonal layout and partially ‘abgeeckt’ (beveled). However, this is more than a visual intervention; all kinds of support functions are built into the sloping walls. Both rooms are designed completely soundproof, with separate floors above each other, to ensure that the functions do not interfere with each other. Theater plays an important role in the Waldorf education, which is why the Great Hall meets very high standards in the field of theater technology.

Natural materials
The college’s facades are made of brick in combination with preserved wood. The facades are ‘hard’ on the street sides and made of blunt-joint masonry; wooden slats provide softening and sun protection. On the schoolyard side, the facades become more ‘organic’ and are made of light, vertical wooden facade parts. For the interior, studio PRO started from a base with natural colors and materials, mixed with accents in more pronounced shades. Special furniture such as the study areas and the distribution desk are specially designed; there is a vibrant green wall in the canteen. At the end of each corridor, the windows are equipped with a glass artwork by the artist Ton Mensenkamp as a landmark.

At the School, the existing wooden frames have been recycled; Furthermore, the entire building has been provided with new insulation and new facade cladding: from painted concrete to warm wood. The color scheme in the interior of the primary school has been developed by De Werkplaats GSB.

Sustainability for humans and animals
The existing primary school was outdated and in poor energetic condition. Due to the renovation, the outer shell has been upgraded to above the current newbuilding requirements. College and School are also affiliated with WKO; there is no longer a gas connection to the old building. PV panels have been installed, making the complex energy neutral. In addition, the schools comply with Fresh Schools class B.

Emphasis is also placed on the spaciousness of nature: large integrated plant boxes are designed on the roof terraces. In the east façade, facilities for storm swallows and sparrows have been included, and in the south façade, bee stones and slits for bats.

For example, atelier PRO has designed a coherent educational ensemble, where a generic existing building has been made suitable as a free school, and where contemporary sustainability requirements and the Steiner education’s philosophy meet.

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