School Campuses Kortrijk
Dennis De Smet

School campuses, Kortrijk

Abscis Architecten en tant que Architectes.

The renewal of the school campus ‘Guldensporencollege’ and the ‘Sint-Amands Basisschool’ in Kortrijk is part of the DBFM-programme ‘Schools of Tomorrow’ and in 2011 came out as a winning design of the Open Call of the ‘Team Vlaams Bouwmeester’. It is a project for five school buildings at two campuses within Kortrijk town centre: campus Diksmuidekaai (‘Kaai’) and campus Leiekant at the existing Pleinschool (‘Plein’). The campus Kaai is now accessible to the public using a north-south axis, which actually carries all other future developments. This axis for pedestrians and cyclists is really a chain of green spaces and it also intensifies the ‘community school’ logic, in that the use of sports complexes and infrastructure is shared. This axis also houses the new main entrances for the different buildings of the secondary school. The campus’ west side was provided with a new entrance for motorised traffic, a kiss&ride zone and a connecting parking lot. The location of the parking allows for – apart from a more formal, public axis – an informal, secondary axis for pupils and teaching staff. This secondary axis allows for short circulation routes not only between the clearly separated entities of the different age and education groups of the secondary and primary schools, but also to the communal functions of these entities, such as the canteen, PE and study rooms and multi-media library. The new bike shed, covered play areas and central campus square are also linked to this secondary axis.

The building for the 14-to-16-year olds is crucial for this proposed design - not only because it defines a new entrance to campus and it functions as the ‘school gate’, but also because it shapes and structures the remaining open space on campus. The building consists of three wings with classrooms and a sports hall, located around the play area, which acts as the centre of this school entity. Such a configuration also reduces as much as possible the noise pollution and increases as much as possible its privacy. In the immediate proximity of the main entrance and reception is located the multi-media library (open study centre), the study room and the directors’ and middle management’s administrative offices. Organisation per floor was very loosely interpreted. Classrooms are organised in three wings of rooms of unequal width, creating a real diversity of type and size of rooms. The more traditional classrooms are located in the main wing, while ICT and subject rooms are located in the street and middle wings. The corridors in the big classroom wing allow for some ‘overflow’ (3.60m or nearly 12 feet wide), enabling some variation in the classroom’s depth and also making it possible to deviate from the traditional rectangular shape and create a diversity in classroom size and type.

The sports hall is located partially underground. On the one hand this restricts the sports hall’s volume but on the other hand it provides a shock resistant wall for ball sports. The school for 14-to-16-year olds is a reasonably massive brick unit in a slightly shaded grey brick with deeply cut window surfaces the size of a classroom. Within the masonry pier rhythm, different wooden joinery surfaces create different accents. This choice of materials is deliberate because although they complement each other, they are still different in expression and tactility. Brick has a massive and expressive character, whereas a wood lining creates warmth and has natural quality. A similar game of material and differentiated facade openings is also played in the sports hall and the one-sided corridor in the middle wing which leads to the play area. Here, black stretch material is used in combination with glass and wood, inverting the massive brick architecture into lightness, just like in a dialectic pair.


The lay-out for the 16-to-18-year olds’ building starts from the logic of the existing buildings (classroom hall, Alcazar and banquet hall). Circulation routes are bespoke for each level in order to guarantee full accessibility. The entrance to the building is located centrally within the cluster of buildings and also in between the play area and the new central campus square. The administrative department acts also as reception and provides control on anybody leaving or entering the building. From the entrance hall a magnificent staircase leads to the first floor, big enough to accommodate the stream of pupils going to and from the canteen, study room and multi-media library. The industrial kitchen is located on the ground floor in order to facilitate the delivery and removal of products and waste. It is of course directly linked to the free flow and ‘hot food’ canteen on the ground floor of the former banquet hall. An enormous atrium with stair cases and walkways creates the feeling of space between both floors of the banquet hall. On the first floor a ‘cold food’ canteen (for sandwich and soup eaters) is also provided, linking up with the study room and the multi-media library. The multi-media library and the study room are ‘the face’ of the new build.

Finally, the requested small PE-room is located in the renovated Alcazar-wing, partially subterranean. Notwithstanding the fact we are dealing here with relatively small extensions to the existing banquet and classroom hall, the new build still gets its own particular identity by its shape and use of materials. By keeping the buildings mainly massive and closed, they do not enter in a competition with the refined details of neighbouring buildings. The façade is only interrupted at crucial locations: the entrance, which will give a view from the central square and the cyclists’ axis to the play area of the 16-to-18-year olds and the multi-media library, which in its turn has a big window on the world, although it is covered with vertical wooden slats ...


The new primary school is located at the new entrance via the Kollegestraat and its sideways facade faces the future campus square. The big awning in front of the Kindergarten’s entrance makes it attractive and easily recognisable. The classrooms are organised in such a way that they ‘embrace’ as it were, the covered play area for the littlest ones. This provides sufficient shelter and also protects the children from the slightly bigger ones in primary school. By providing the wide corridor along the play area with big sliding windows, it can serve as an extension to the play area on days of good weather. Although we are dealing here with a relatively small building, the new Kindergarten still gets its own identity by its shape and use of materials. The lattice work external façade is characterised by its quirky window pattern and the cornice is slightly inclined, which strengthens the playful character of the building and simultaneously allows for more northern light to infiltrate deep in the classrooms. In the existing annex to the classroom hall a classroom, a dorm and a dolls room were inserted.


At campus Plein, the side of the former De Pleinschool by the river Leie or the former Fort, the existing buildings were refurbished and extended. The boarding building is now located in an existing side wing of the Fort and consists of three dorm floors and an open leisure time room on the ground floor. Former floors are kept the same in order to connect with the school, with which it shares a stairwell and a lift. The difference in height with the former floors is dealt with on a ground floor level with steps and an incline, splitting the leisure time room into several spaces. The first floor has ample free space and this allows for an alternative type of bedroom – with bunk beds – to be installed, whereas in terms of free height the second and third floor will do as dorms, just. In order to use as effectively as possible all free space on the third floor, the existing inclining roof with dormers was replaced with a full roof in zinc, including slightly inclining facade surfaces with protruding window frames, which are a modern day answer to the existing dormers pattern.


The canteen is interpreted as an open and inviting pavilion in the green internal garden of campus Plein. The supporting functions such as kitchen, store room, toilets and technical spaces are located against the garden wall and are shaped as a closed, elongated unit. The dining room is surrounded by a curtain wall with transparent glass surfaces and opaque sandwich panels with wooden lining. The roof received an important incline, which strengthens the solitary character of the building.

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