The Flemish Government’s Scholen van Morgen programme aims to improve school buildings in Flanders, using a private sector developer COPiD and working with standardised processes to deliver and maintain projects for a 30 year lease period. The College’s vision was to use the funding to reorganise their facilities so that the Middle School would have a proper building with a distinct identity, as well as to improve their high school facilities to mitigate the historic distinctions between the academic and vocational streams of the Upper School.
In the competition and design process we used our experience with the delivery of large BSF schools, colleges and private school campuses, to suggest potential changes to the approach – both in terms of the building design and using landscape – of revitalising the overall campus. Thinking about the external spaces and landscape design was fundamental to our competition proposals, collaborating with McGregor Smith, with the late Mike Smith’s perceptive reading of the historic landscape of the campus and the surrounding ‘Meetjesland’ landscape of Flanders. We sought to improve the quality of the spaces and routes within the site, particularly in the bleak areas of the former vocational high school and make much better links between the school and the town.
We took responsibility for the design; SMAK Architects took responsibility for the costing, design team and client liaison as well as working with the contractor during the delivery stages. Following our competition win we worked closely with SMAK Architects and our Flemish design team to develop the proposals, attending regular meetings in Flanders and Antwerp to meet the school, the design team and the key stakeholders. Despite the differences in architectural practice between the UK and Belgium the communication has been straightforward, using a digital exchange of BIM models, drawings and sketches to develop co-ordinated proposals.