The former school site, on the Bosschelweg – Molenstraat corner, operates as a connection between the open green landscape and the village centre with all its facilities. The uniqueness of the location is created by the presence of the local school, the existing perimeter wall and the tall trees. In addition, the statue that is present provides a reference to the demolished gunpowder factory P.R.B. or Coopal. The preservation of the genius loci is a priority when transforming this walled school site into a residential area.
The most northern building of the site, recorded in the Inventory of the Cultural heritage in Belgium, dates back to the Interbellum and housed the city hall. The decision to repurpose the former boys’ school entails that four residential dwellings can be located here. In order to preserve the green character of the municipality, the decision is made to additionally place five living entities on the plot. The result is a cohousing project with a total of nine residences. Furthermore, a disproportion in scale is avoided by carefully attuning the chosen housing typology and implantations to the location.
The existing garden wall encloses the former playground and provides the seclusion of the site. In the vision of the development of a cohousing project in which shared living is entwined, the preservation of the wall is a surplus for the young families that will find a home here. Moreover, the garden wall contributes to the recognisability of the site and by its preservation, the current street scene is preserved as well. At a number of strategic places the garden wall is punctured to increase the accessibility of the site. By linking the individual living entities, the privacy of every family is optimised. Every residence has its own access so as to ensure the individual living quality within the cohousing project.
The chosen housing typology with its sloping roofs is a reference to the rural character of the small village and the immediate vicinity. Additionally, the choice of material is also based on the uniqueness of the site. Both the garden wall and the existing boys’ school are built in brick and, in order to establish a whole, the decision is made to use this traditional façade brickwork when building the new residences as well. The colour palette of the bricks is based on the shades that are incorporated in the existing façade. The choice to work with different shades of façade brickwork is meant to increase the recognisability of the individual residences. Despite the fact that it is called a cohousing project, each residence is still recognisable for both resident and visitor.
Following the individual living quality, an open plan is chosen for both the newly built houses and the existing buildings. In the new houses the grey functions are collected in a free standing volume so that a sense of openness is created in the living area. On the one hand, the open plan of the residences benefits the spaciousness and, on the other hand, it ensures that each housing entity is situated towards its own private outside space. A careful linking of the volumes ensures that looking inside is avoided. In the former boys’ school houses with a double orientation are created, with both a front and a back garden.