Colliding ice floes, that’s the best comparison with the new school building of the Utrecht Municipal Gymnasium. That image of drifting ice was what Thomas Rau and Johannes Fröhlich of RAU had in mind when designing the new school. The harsh social reality of learning and performance that schoolchildren gradually encounter in secondary school, had to be expressed in the concept, according to the architects.
"We wanted a school with a cool appearance, in a different form and color than usual, with which students can identify," says Fröhlich. "Peter Hol, project architect at RAU and responsible for the construction of the school explains that this building eventually became much more compact than previously thought. "In order comply with the urban plan, the three school buildings and a gym were put closely together as separate volumes on a campus. The three school buildings are linked together with glass notches suspended by a light steel structure. Thus they provide a covered walkway from one building to another. This procedure ensures the small scale of the individual buildings, while still functioning as a whole.
The flexible layout school complex includes a number of energy-generating methods and is therefore optimally energy efficient. One innovative aspect are the steel energy columns that provide vertical transport of heat and cold for the building while also containing the electrical equipment such as power and data lines. There is underfloor heating and balanced ventilation with heat recovery. The building is equipped with high frequency fixtures with motion detection, solar shading and daylight sensitive control. All of which are things that you do not see at first glance, but are important for sustainable energy saving and a healthy indoor environment.
Each building section or pavilion is different in height, with no more than three storeys, harmonizing with the low character of the neighborhood. The facades are clad with Colorcoat Prisma® in different profiles and different metallic colors. Hol points to the visual effect of the slanting façade panels that seem to sink into the ground. As if the ground slopes down a few feet. "The eye sees something very different from what it really is!"