The plan for the “de Kop van Zuid” is to realise the idea of letting the city centre of Rotterdam grow out and over the river Maas towards the south of Rotterdam. In the currently largely abandoned dock areas, a high-quality urban development is taking place.
Two schools for secondary vocational education, which include training for jobs in the hospitality and healthcare sectors, have acquired the location on the southern tip. The site is wedge-shaped, with a filled-up harbour on the west side which has been transformed into an elongated strip of park, and on the east side the railway route Rotterdam-Dordrecht, along which the high speed train will run as well. The urban plan directive emphasizes the importance of this place, not least by prescribing a vertical accentuation on the southern tip, which also emphasizes the north-south direction.
This was the prelude to a striking and idiosyncratic building that responds strongly to this ambitious urban planning setting.
The identity of the two schools is manifest (the tower houses the Prinses Margrietschool, the V-shaped low-rise building contains rooms for the Albeda College), while there is nevertheless a coherent building.
In the meantime, the Princes Margrietschool has become an integral part of the Albeda College.
The exterior has been carefully materialized with a high level of ambition and detail, within the budget outlines of the Ministry of Education, Cultural Affairs & Science (“OC&W”).
The interior contains a large variety of different spaces, tailored to the respective user groups, including the departments of education, healthcare, welfare, (social) services, hospitality, office facilities and sports.
The alternation of high and low areas, transparent and dense surfaces, and large and small differences in level, come together to make for exceptional spatial qualities and a multiplicity of purposes.
The building structure is architecturally simple to reorganise, so that changes in function and educational reforms are literally given the space to move.
The entrance is located on the first floor. This allows for a good view, above the cars, onto the rail road and the pastures beyond. The heart of the building is a double-height space that connects the various departments with open staircases. By placing the students’ meeting place on the first floor, there is plenty of space in the base of the building for various functions which can facilitate involvement of the city with the education building. There are sports facilities, which are nevertheless accessible to third parties in the evenings and weekends while the rest of the building is kept closed. The restaurants, which are ‘run’ by students, are accessible to third parties from street-level. The deep space on the ground floor resolves the need for on-site parking within the building, while also providing for an ideal location for a help centre for EZH (outpatient services).
On the student square on the first floor there is plenty of natural light and an expansive view of the surroundings. As part of an art project, the windows of the patio area adjacent to the main traffic areas of education building, have been inscribed with the initials of all students who were connected to either of the two schools at the time when the new building was constructed. From the student square, the large lecture hall is recognisable by its robust steel plating. Within the double wall (for sound insulation) of this room, there are (barely visible) alcoves for the large number of lockers. A unique feature is the high-rise, accessible with the help of several fast lifts. Each floor has its own character and atmosphere representative for practice-oriented education. Thus, there is one floor arranged as a hospital ward, and another as an administrative office. The difference in use and appearance per department and educational direction, is, as it were, affirmed by each horizontal layer. The tower desired by urban planning, despite logistical concerns, turned out to be a feasible concept.