International School Utrecht

Learning Spiral

To facilitate a building in which the 1,200 international students of ISUtrecht in every age group have their own and natural place in the building, the school has been built up from one spiral line. A variety of open and closed learning zones support specific learning situations and moments of interaction. Together a central square and a courtyard garden form the heart of the school. The grid structure provides a solid framework within which options such as flexible layout, expandability, and adaptability provide room for the future.
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Bart Reuser, Marijn Schenk, Michel Schreinemachers with Joost Lemmens, Niek van Harmelen, Michelle Franke, Jorn Kooijstra (NEXT) and Michael Christensen, Francisco Villeda (Christensen & Co).

Christensen & Co, Bureau B+B, Bremen Bouwadviseurs, Breed-ID

Exploring education as a journey

To strengthen the wide range of education in Utrecht and the international business climate in the city of Utrecht, a competition for a new school for 1,200 international students between the ages of four and eighteen was launched, focusing on individual development and a safe learning environment. School time has been designed as a journey to facilitate a building in which every child in every age phase has its own and self-evident place in the building. The youngest students have a safe place on the ground floor around the central courtyard, where the architecture offers shelter and is small-scale. When the students get older and move on to new places in the building, the architecture opens up and the connection with the outside world becomes stronger.

Connecting learning zones

The International School Utrecht is designed from a single spiral upwards and consists of a wide range of open and closed learning zones with scenography and an interior that support specific learning situations and moments of interaction. A central square and a courtyard garden together form the heart of the school. The educational environment, which is constructed as a continuous learning path, revolves around this collective ‘heart’. The collective elements, such as the playroom, the auditorium, the gymnasium, and the libraries are positioned in this continuous learning line. The spiral movement connects the different departments. This makes the mutual relationships strong, the walking lines short and the use self-evident. The central square is the meeting place for the ISUtrecht community. This space is positioned on the first layer to optimally connect the place with all users of the building.

Creating a green ecosystem

Thanks to the large courtyard garden, it is possible to combine the location in the centre of the building with plenty of daylight and a direct connection to the roof landscape. A large terrace connects the central square with the inner garden, which takes on the character of a Hortus Conclusus: an exciting and richly vegetated patio. This ‘green lung’ makes it possible to give all rooms a direct connection to the outside air, while still making a compact building. The grid structure provides a solid framework within which options such as flexible layout, expandability, and adaptability provide room for the future.

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