Location: Almere, Netherlands
Client: Hogeschool Windesheim
Program: Graduate School
Sector: renovation, transformation
Image credits: reA
Due to the ever increasing internet shopping old fashioned shops are having a hard time. Empty retail units along inner city streets are not uncommon. The quite recent extension of the centre of Almere, to the masterplan of OMA, suffers from this phenomenon as well. Especially retail spaces on upper floors are left bare. reA is asked to convert a former retail space on the first floor into an extension for the local graduate school Windesheim. To our surprise the spaces are actually quite suited for a public place of education. Easy to find, due to the shop windows, easy accessible, due to the escalators and with a generous free height of more than 4 meters, are some of the aspects that are beneficial. The project starts with approximately 1650 m2, but will expand to three times that size in two years, integrated other units in the building.
The design for the first stage is about using the qualities of the building to its optimum and making the negative aspects, like the lack of windows, irrelevant. Centrally a big open student square is created underneath the high roof. This place is treated as a comfortable and inviting city square with high quality furniture around a big garden. Coming from the entrance, up the escalators, one enters the square directly. That way it offers a warm welcome, an overview of the location and the possibilities to meet other students and staff. Crossing the square one enters an internal street that will connect to the future extensions. All rooms around the square and along the street have glass walls from the floor to the high ceiling. The dividing walls have upper parts also made of glass. With all the glass and the height the interior feels very roomy and light.
The furniture design offers a variety of seats that either invite for concentrated work or for collaborating within a group of students or staff, but also for relaxing and socialising. Besides offering the best facilities for education, the location aims to feel like a home to its students, a place where they like to spend time.