Text description provided by the architects. The new building for the Montessori School Waalsdorp makes up part of the “school triangle” in the city’s Benoordenhout district. Designed by De Zwarte Hond, the school blends in well with the neighbourhood, while maintaining a unique presence. Its spacious and flexible interior forms a dynamic accommodation perfectly suited to the Montessori education system.
Characterised by the surrounding narrow streets and 1930’s brick housing, this broad, triangular block hosts the Montessori School Waalsdorp along with two other schools. The school’s position on the plot is defined by two historic Linden trees and the corner entrance, an orientation that provides the school with two playgrounds: a welcoming front space, and a generous area behind.
The strongly-profiled facade is constructed of exceptionally large, unusually proportioned bricks. Striking vertical ribs define the front entrance. The window frames are of anodized bronze aluminum with a distinctively deep profile, and the sun-shading is housed invisibly behind the brickwork.
The Montessori education system requires a unique, non-traditional architectural layout. The main structure consists of three organisational units, each housing a specific age-group. Each unit has its own classrooms, multifunctional corridor and entrance: the older and middle age-group areas are located on opposite sides of the sports hall on the first floor, while the younger children are accommodated on the ground floor. Here, next to the main entrance, the after-school care area, playroom, technical-studies room and kitchen are also located. The auditorium forms the heart of the building.
Responding directly to the Montessori system’s pedagogic goals, all these features are connected by a wide multifunctional “street” that acts as a meeting place where children can work and play together. The two floors are connected by three voids allowing daylight to penetrate deep into the building.
Due to the extensive use of internal glass – and despite its division into three units – the school has an open and transparent character. The specific design of both the after-school area and the sports hall enhances their relationships with the other areas, and intensifies both the spaciousness and flexibility of the building.
The services have been thoroughly integrated into the spatial design. Large-scale air-ducts, housed in the recesses between the classrooms and corridors, provide the building with Class B-quality fresh air. The ceiling height in the multifunctional “street”, the auditorium, and all the classrooms is 3.40m, comparable to Class A Schools.
Great attention has been paid to the detailing of both the exterior and interior materials, all of which have been selected to age gracefully. Special care has also been taken with the interior layout, ensuring incorporation of the Montessori teaching method into the design. The wooden paneling has been worked to incorporate bookcases, coat-racks, permanent work-stations and cabinets.