Belgium is filled with architectural gems, like this school designed by Renaat Braem.
We pass it every day, wondering how it looks on the inside. Fortunately, the school secretary was kind enough to let us in to share the rich history and story behind this building. Turns out the interior and exterior of the building has mainly stayed intact, making it look exactly like how Braem envisioned it in the Fifties.
The new school was commissioned in 1957, in order to replace an older school dating from the19th century. Braem's idea for the new kindergarten was bold and revolutionary: he wanted to transform the school into a calm oasis for the kids located in the North of Antwerp, also known as a troubled area. Bream even went as far as to try to move the school to the central square nearby, for it to become a very open structure. But that was a bridge to far for the already highly politicized building project. Braem’s socialist ideas caused a troubled relationship between him and with mayor Craeybeckx.
Because of these frictions, this building marked a turning point in Braem's designs in 1972. His style became more organic, moving away from the harsh Brutalism of the Police Tower (which is also one of our favorite buildings in Antwerp) and the social housing project Kiel.
The school in the North of Antwerp shows a nice balance between aesthetic and practical user-oriented thinking. It’s very clear to see that the entire school was designed from a child's perspective, with organic playful lines, a beautiful botanical garden and lots of natural light coming in. Another remarkable feature in the building is the monumental art integration by young artist Weemaels. The geometric pattern is still fresh and a pleasure to the (youthful) eye.
In a modern age, where everything is worn down after two years and buildings are subjected to total and contemporary make-overs, it’s very remarkable and amazing to see how much of the original materials are still intact, ranging from linoleum floors, colored tiles, to the pieces of furniture.
We strongly hope the school will receive extra funding, which will enable them to renovate the balconies of the classrooms and do some other general renovations.
Text & Photograpy: Bart Kiggen
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