Campus Kompas

education campus with kindergarten, primary school, teenage school, secondary school, youth centre, and common functions
After winning the commission for a new schools complex through a competitive dialogue procedure, POLO Architecture started the lengthy but thrilling process of taking the scheme to built reality. The subtle nature and ingrained flexibility of our casbah concept allowed us to mould and modify the required building density and respond dynamically to the client’s brief as well as the fragmented urban context.


Surface area
Vlaamse Gemeenschapscommissie
THV Odebrecht-Vanhout Projects
Landscape design
  • Dirk Vandekerkhove Landschapsarchitecten
winning competition design
Stijn Bollaert

In consultation with the Flemish Community Commission (VGC), we had opted to distribute the building program over two sites. This reduced the building density and allowed for more open green spaces within the scheme.

A large plot from a private owner at the centre of the campus proved difficult to acquire and effectively prevented any direct link between the two sites. Instead of pursuing a possibly lengthy acquisition process, we used this specific constellation as a basis to develop two separate school clusters, with the future option of connecting them through a tunnel under the obstructing building.

A village spine (Cluster 1)

The main site or Cluster 1 consists of the longitudinal plot connecting the Gallaitstraat and Vanderlindenstraat. Here we locate the primary and middle schools with their supporting functions. A low building volume along the length of the site acts as the spine of the scheme, setting up the main circulation between the different departments and amenities as well as bridging the level difference between the two streets. It accommodates communal facilities such as the sports hall and canteen and acts as a podium on which the different school buildings are placed.

Cluster 1 is bookended to the east by a gate building that acts as generous welcoming entrance from the Gallaitstraat. On its higher floors we find the middle school’s classrooms . At the opposite end, the streetscape of the Vanderlindenstraat is completed by a building housing shared teaching facilities and teacher’s rooms; at grade it accommodates the vehicle entrance and ramp to the underground car park.

In between these two street-fronting volumes we create a progression of open and built spaces. Separate buildings are provided for the kindergarten, primary school and “tienerschool" — the latter an innovative school concept for 10 to 14 year olds aiming to provide a smoother transition between primary and secondary schools.

The fine-grained spatiality of the casbah concept creates room for various enclosed outdoor spaces. These can be programmed and looked after by different classes, according to specific needs and requirements. Two large playgrounds with distinct characters cater to younger and older children respectively; they are interconnected by a staircase so every student can find his/her own spot in the sun. Limiting the footprint of the car park basement allows us to plant some bigger trees here to deliver shade and much needed greenery.

A permeable, flexible campus

The school’s common facilities are located close to entrances or easily accessed from there so they can be used by the general public and outside of school hours: the sports hall, playgrounds, meeting rooms… While the casbah concept conceives of the campus as a self-sustained entity, this programmatic generosity simultaneously integrates it into the wider community.

The casbah concept generates a variety of spatial conditions that respond to the specific needs of the different age groups. For the toddlers at the kindergarten we provide classrooms grouped around an enclosed patio, a safe cocoon. As kids mature and progress to primary and secondary schools, they are presented with more spatial freedom and opportunities for interaction with the external environment. In this way the architecture reflects the children’s natural evolution of increasing exposure to the outside world.

The structure of the new buildings is characterised by large spans, ensuring large, unhindered spaces which are functionally flexible. We envisage a design that can be readily adapted to changing wants and needs. The character of different rooms is determined more by their relation to adjacent outdoor spaces and views thereof than through any fixed functions or fit-outs .

The interiors are developed by the POLO Interior Design team to provide functional and robust surroundings for the children to thrive; but we also count on the input and creativity of the endusers to further furnish and decorate the spaces. Rather than second-guessing the children’s changing preferences, we provide a kind of “blank canvas” that seeks to empower the students and stimulate them to make this school really theirs.