Light + space = luxury for a primary school

Leo Bimbergen & Hans van de Ven

It is really a different school than you are used to. Leo Bimbergen – constructional project leader of the city of Eindhoven – looks back on the renovation of t Karregat together with site foreman Hans van de Ven.

’t Karregat, a multifunctional community centre of cultural and historical value, has already existed since 1973. Architect Frank van Klingeren designed a large open space without partitioning walls in order to stimulate a strong user community. It soon turned out that the concept did not work in actual practice. Schoolchildren, teachers, shopkeepers and local residents got in each other’s way. In the following years the open space was provisionally divided into more and more separate places. Thirty years after its completion ‘t Karregat no longer functioned. Urgent action was needed.

Especially the users could relate to the design

“2009 was a crucial year. The alderman fought hard for renovation. With all parties involved – the supermarket, the school, the library, the hairdresser – we drew up a design brief and put the design contract out to European tender. Everyone was enthusiastic about the new future of ‘t Karregat. Five architects presented their vision to the council and the users. Especially that last group could relate to the design of diederendirrix and architecten|en|en,” says Bimbergen. They project was awarded to the alliance of architects who made a design for the entire community centre. “And then the crisis hit,” Bimbergen explains. “When housing prices were set around 2010, entrepreneurs who first enthusiastically participated in the plan, pulled out. Only the supermarket signed a lease. We then made the difficult decision to renovate one half of ‘t Karregat, the ‘Play, Integrate and Learn’ centre. The other half, the commercial part, is now for sale.”

To have so much space is a luxury for the school

Despite the fact that ’t Karregat is not yet completely finished, the principal, parents and children are very satisfied with their new school. No other school in Eindhoven has this much space and light, according to Bimbergen. “This is because of the umbrellas which make the building almost twice the normal height and let daylight in. The umbrellas were a huge challenge. Because of their specific form it is not easy to fit walls to them. The design has eventually led to clusters of four classrooms around a sort of inner court. To have so much space is a luxury for the school.”

The umbrellas were a huge challenge

The umbrellas presented the contractors with a technical challenge. “The light covers used to be single glazing. When the sun was shining, it immediately reached 30 degrees. This is not good for a school. Now they are finished with a double-glazed plate that lets light through and the area inside the umbrellas is ventilated,” Bimbergen says. Foreman Van de Ven continues. “To line such an umbrella is not easy. The details already looked difficult on the drawings. Sometimes it was a complex puzzle. The umbrella has to be open on two sides for the ventilation, but this also causes sound to leak. Fortunately, the acoustic measurements are all positive. The insulation against noise and heat is enough. The people from the neighbourhood now like the umbrellas too. Especially when they are lit at night they have a beautiful effect.”