Eksaarde, a village part of the City of Lokeren needed a new recognition point – a kindergarten, a place to gather. A place where one could meet. The chosen site for this competition was the former site of the historical townhall.

KINDERGARTEN
LOKEREN, BELGIUM
Architects: Steven Vandenborre Architects, TOOP architectuur
Area: 617.0 m2
Year: 2018
Photograph: Tim Van de Velde
Manufacturers: Wienerberger, Alucobond

A place that is rather quiet but open

Close to the villages’ center, family houses, schools, an elderly home, the site rather feels like a park. We wanted to create a project, very subtle embedded in the park. A building that feels like it was already there but above all, one that was open to the public. Even more, a building that creates opportunities to meet. The program of the building feels at first sight very contradictory. At one side the library. A place that is rather quiet but open. At the other side the kindergarten. Very strictly regulated but noisy and playful.

The internal organization of the building is clear and simple

We combined these 2 programs in 1 physical building and arranged them around a public square with just 1 entrance. The most public functions which can be found in the library are oriented to the street and makes people curious. The more protected rooms of the kindergarten are placed away from the street but open up to the park and the elderly home behind.  The internal organization of the building is clear and simple. When entering the building one meets the internal patio.  All functions are connected through that outdoor area.  The patio is used as a tool to create light but mostly to create interaction without physical proximity.  Kids interact through the glass and mirrors, parents and visitors see their kids playing in a safe environment while entering the building.

Flexibility is the red wire through the library’s interior design.

The community missed a place where they could hold meetings, the kindergarten wanted a possibility to expand. Therefore the books are placed in dark stained plywood cabinets that have steel mesh doors which can open. When the library is open they create reading pockets where one can discover books. When closed they create curiosity but also make it possible to use the space for other occasions. The kindergarten can expand and kids can play in the library without having to move elements. The community can easily hold meetings there.

Adventurous playground behind the living areas

The kindergarten, the more protected program of the building is oriented towards an adventurous playground behind the living areas.  The living rooms can extend towards the exterior by opening the sliding windows and create open air living areas. Kids can easily walk out underneath a canopy before they climb up the hills or cycle around the bicycle track.

The materials are warm and recognizable.

Sand colored concrete, bricks within the same color palette and sand colored washed concrete.  Refined and simple architectural gestures make the building easy to grasp.  The public square feels enclosed through the concrete beams above. The brick walls lead one to the entrance and are continued in the interior of the library.  The park is continued through & around the project. One should enjoy flowers, honeybees, the seasons while meeting in or around this new community center.