Architect & Builder – May/June 2020

Curro Digi-Ed in Delft

 

The environment becomes the third teacher

 

The world is changing so rapidly, and most current traditional schools are not sufficiently preparing learners for the 21st century – but the Curro Digi-Ed model aims to change all of that. Based on a technologically inclined e-learning curriculum to prepare learners for the fourth industrial revolution, Digi-Ed focusses on teaching through project-based learning programmes, which are emphasised by the subjects of Science, Mathematics and Technology.

 

Curro approaches education differently, so they needed an innovative architectural firm to design their new expansion in Delft, appointing BPAS Architects as being up for the task. Their brief was to create a space that would challenge the traditional classroom and its teaching mediums and facilities, as their learning material is predominantly delivered through digital channels.

 

BPAS Architects split the programming of the building into two levels. Only a small admin component was needed due to the small size of the teaching staff, which was situated at the entrance to the building, with an informal cafeteria and gathering space linked behind it. Three distinctive staircases link the gathering space, with the open plan teaching area above it.

 

Within the open plan teaching area, three clear zones are defined:

  • A collaboration space with tables for robotics & science experiments
  • A “quiet” space with PC workstations
  • Two formal classrooms for lectures

 

Each space is clearly defined by visual thresholds, although open in nature. This allows the school to be adaptable, with the teachers/facilitators having the opportunity to rearrange the classes according to their needs. Furniture and services are also designed for flexibility and allow areas to be reorganised as necessary. The typology of the traditional school was challenged in the process, creating a “decorated shed”, featuring the internal functionality and adaptability of the digital age.

 

BPAS mainly incorporated robust, low maintenance materials to clad the building, with the roof elements blurring the boundaries between wall, roof and window. The materials palette included a selection of hardy materials that suit the robust nature of Delft, namely concrete, blocks, containers and steel. The building makes use of a prominent clerestory window on the Southern façade to provide natural lighting in the open plan teaching space. The playful use of bright colours further enhances the gathering spaces on the building façade.

 

The building has an active urban edge with a safe inner courtyard, addressing both the urban fabric and its environmental conditions. The initial building will form part of a series of spaces and will hopefully act as an urban catalyst for the larger future development of the entire area.

 

The vision to bring a digital school into Delft emphases how all of us acknowledge the value of education, with this building being based on the principle of human-centred architecture – in a peri urban space.

 

Landseer Collen, principal and lead architect at BPAS Architects, says: “We as architects have to consider that our design has an integrated value in the purpose of the client’s programme. The user becomes essential in the space, which formulates the environment. The environment is therefore deemed as the third teacher, and this gave us the opportunity to apply this theory in practice and see how space evolves around human activity – and not by preconceived ideas.

 

The team consisted of Design Architect Ian Cox, Project Architect Theo Gutter and Salmon Smith.