HAST, A new social & science education campus for Hasselt
Education is at the centre of social changes, demanding efforts from students, teachers, management and parents. As designers, we try to find out how school buildings may adapt to changing trends in education. We are aware that learning in the 21st century is no longer the exclusive domain of knowledge institutes, but takes place all the time and everywhere, simultaneously. This makes the idea of a social & science education campus that has the ambition to be much more than just a school, highly relevant.
The current site of the VTI Technical School in the centre of Hasselt had several disadvantages. It was decided to build a new technical school on the premises of the Heilig Hart Institute of Technology, exactly where the railway infrastructure and the Hasselt ring road intersect.
This educational campus is being realised as part of the Schools of Tomorrow project, a catch-up operation for school building in Flanders.
The aim is to create a new, strong social & science education campus. The school buildings will provide a wide variety of functions. They are the venue for educational activities as well as social functions.
The new campus fits within the West 8 Master Plan for the area around the railway station. The campus constitutes a spatial termination of the green boulevard envisaged in the master plan. This termination is designed as an elongated public space between the new school building and the existing buildings of the Heilig Hart Institute of Technology. This axis is enhanced by canopies on both sides and is spatially terminated by a large flight of steps. Students can hang out here, play or even attend lessons.
The new school building was envisaged as three transverse, parallel blocks, grafted onto a longitudinal axis. These blocks contain classrooms for various education programmes, an open learning centre, a hairdressing salon, sports facilities, woodworking and construction studios, and administrative offices and recreation rooms. The division into three transverse volumes, linked by a transparent longitudinal axis, ensures that the approximately 14,000m² building is never experienced as a solid mass. The fully glazed and even entirely open central staircases reinforce this spatial principle.
The wing nearest to the town centre is open for the more social functions, such as the hairdressing salon and the recreation rooms. These can also be used outside school hours.
More strain-intensive activities, such as the education programmes and the woodworking and construction studios, are located at the Western end of the campus.
The design is centred around the spatial experience of the students and teaching staff. Creating an optimal climate for organising and realising the process of knowledge transfer, constituted the starting point.
The integral ground floor exhibits the highest degree of transparency, interrelating all the location's zones and providing an overview at all times.
The inconvenient aspects of this difficult site adjacent to the railway infrastructure, were cleverly countered by an adapted facade structure. For acoustic reasons, the facade at the side of the railway has been kept closed to a great extent. The closed surfaces in the brickwork contrast with the openwork facades facing the courtyard and sports fields that constitute the green areas between and underneath the campus buildings.