This project involves the conversion of a castle with heritage value into the Brede school on behalf of Groenendaal College. As such, it functions as a model project within the “catch-up” operation for the construction of new schools in Flanders. The original main building’s heritage value does not allow for any drastic changes while its location in a park of natural-historic value does not allow for an expansion of the existing volume.
Despite these constraints, the school is in need of a functional and spatial improvement of its classrooms, along with additional space for its multi functional and public programme. With regards to the latter, our attention was drawn to the cellar and ground floor, both of which have an extensive floor plan that is easily accessible and also easy to separate from the remaining parts of the castle.
The building currently consists of the original castle – in more or less original condition with the exception of a few rooms – and an outbuilding which dates from the 1950s. The latter accounts for half the surface area of the cellar and ground floor with façades that reflect those of the original castle in terms of rhythm, materiality and detailing. We realised that we could only stand in admiration of the radicalism and resolve with which the decision in favour of this stylistic replica must have been taken. The problem of the annex is not so much the architecture, however, but its interruption of the original relationship between the castle and the park.
The historic salons – which once directly overlooked the park – have as a result of the annex become dark, isolated rooms. Unusable due to the lack of daylight. Nor does the annex itself, with its heavy concrete structure and low ceiling height, offer much in the way of experiential value.We therefore decided to break out the floor of the annex and replace its solid roof with a glass cupola. The resultant double-height hall allows for a more flexible use of the space while also allowing more daylight to penetrate deeper into the building. Contemporary in character, the space also serves to restore the original transition between the castle and the park while also making way for a wider variety of multifunctional and public programmes in the annex. The regular school programme, by contrast, is moved entirely to the historic castle, in keeping with the character of the existing rooms.