Bosco Collage Entrance Old

learning from nature

Don Bosco Elementary School

The new school site is a children's paradise before we even start. It's vast and green, there are fields, orchards, a broad valley, water, wilderness, groves, endless possibilities to play. 

The strong brick architecture of the Salesians gives the place character and spatial identity. The venerable buildings anchor the new development to the village, the history and the meaning of the place. We would therefore like to give these buildings an important role in the design for the new school.

On the site behind the existing buildings we embrace the landscape and design a building complex that is embedded in the orchards. With its slightly sloping green roofs, pergolas, semi-enclosed outdoor spaces and school gardens, the new roof landscape looks like an extension of nature.

location: Groot Bijgaarden, Dilbeek, Brussels, BE
competition: 2nd prize, Open Oproep 3202 competition
year: 2017
advisor - technical installations: JanPiet vd Weele
advisor - landscape and garden architecture: Arne Deruyter
Bosco Axo

The new school is conceived as a series of open spaces. The buildings form a natural demarcation of the playground for the toddlers - a safe area that is naturally enclosed by the terraces in the terrain. The outdoor area for the older children opens up to the landscape, the sports areas and adventure-filled forest.

The natural setting can be perceived from every room within the building. The roof shapes, the proportions of the interior rooms, the abundant daylight and the use of natural materials translate the natural setup of the buildings into the interior. The materials and construction systems reinforce the natural character of the buildings and ensure a minimal disruption of the site. We use timber as the main material for construction and interior. It provides warmth, character, good acoustics and a very short construction period. The spatial structure offers comfort, natural light and provides natural shading, insulation and solar energy.

Bosco Model Bn
Bosco Sketch 4
Bosco Collage Court Toddler

The school is divided into three wings, one for the youngest toddlers, one for the older toddlers and one for the primary school. The wings are connected with the landscape and to each other by large covered outdoor spaces.

Bosco Nature 5
Bosco Nature 4
Bosco Collage Auditorium

In the programme of requirements the client asks for large classrooms and spacious refectories. Hallways are not even mentioned in the text. We take this particular fact literally. We propose a school without corridors that consists exclusively of multifunctional spaces and consider the refectories as polyvalent zones to be used not only during breaks and meals but at any time of the day. The warm and bright rooms have both the character of a large conservatory and of a versatile living room, with balconies, different lounge and work areas and staircases.

The covered outdoor areas are designed as an extension of the refectories; indoor and outdoor spaces are connected to each other by wide sliding doors.

Bosco Sketch 5
Bosco Sketch 1
Bosco Landscape

The classrooms for the youngest children are conceived as an independent "dwelling" next to the main entrance. The wing for the older toddlers is also directly linked to the main entrance. A wide, light and versatile dining hall connects all the rooms on both floors.

The wing for the older children has a similar structure to the wing for the toddlers but an inverted orientation. The northern light from the windows is complemented by south-facing skylights and the sunny refectory.

Bosco Line Refter Old Kids Gv
Bosco Collage Entrance New
Bosco Line Gym Lamps
Bosco Line Refter Toddlers
Bosco Line Class Toddlers
gym hall | toddlers refectory | toddlers classrooms

The new gymnasium forms a connecting element between old and new buildings and is the spatial and social center of the school. Thanks to the high-quality wood finishes, the fine acoustics and the beautiful daylight, the space is suitable for polyvalent use. The corridor zone around it serves as a stage, stand and extension of the toddlers' rooms.

In the space between the roof beams there is room for a thick layer of soil. The roof is arranged as a school garden with different beds for herbs, vegetables and flowers. Together with the adjoining library, this "hortus catalogi" forms the mental and intellectual centre of the school.

Bosco Section 1

south elevation

Bosco Ground Floor

ground floor

Bosco First Floor

first floor

Bosco Section 2


In our proposal, the exterior walls of the old building remain fully preserved. In the basement there are the changing rooms and an informal reception area with kitchen and bar - these facilities are shared by the users of the gymnasium in the chapel and the users of the new gymnasium.

The first floor is entirely occupied by a large library for all children. The teachers' lounge and offices are arranged on the second and third floors. The proximity of the library and the school garden bridges the distance between the staff and the school.

Bosco Line Class Small Gv
Bosco Line Class Old Gv
Bosco Line Class Old Vd1
Bosco Line Class Small Vd1
Bosco Line Refter Old Kids Vd1
Bosco Line Refter Small Kids Vd1
classrooms and refectories
Bosco Collage Court Old