A dance between
uniformity and diversity
Nieuwe Damlaan Children’s Centre, Schiedam
Atelier PRO designed the Nieuwe Damlaan Children’s Centre in the post-war district of Nieuwland in Schiedam. A paradise for children from the age of one to the end of primary school, the centre comprises De Taaltuin, a public primary school, and Ababil, a primary school for Islamic education. Each school also contains a pre-school facility run by SWS Welzijn, as well as an after school day-care facility run by Mundo Kinderopvang, and a room for after school day-care run by Academia. The Primo Schiedam Foundation manages the double gymnasium here. All these functions are housed in one building and spatially connected to one another.
The bold brick building has a clearly distinctive form and blends into the grain of development in the area. Nieuwland is a district with open urban spaces that contain both large solitary buildings and smaller scale residential blocks. These buildings are oriented and aligned differently, which in turn influenced the building volume of the children’s centre. In this way, the school forms a transition between these two surrounding scales of buildings. The volume has a u-shaped form with an intimate courtyard. Strong brickwork characterises the exterior while light-grey plasterwork clads the inner facades. The park-like surroundings extend around the building.
The sturdy building varies in scale from big to small, while the intimate schools inside each have their own entrance, character and atmosphere. Particular attention is paid to the entrances to reflect the ideas and visions of the occupants. For example, the entrance to Ababil is marked by a laser-cut perforated steel screen and features a motif taken from a mosque in Fez, Morocco. The design of the entrance to De Taaltuin is inspired by a painting by one of the teachers at the school. The special elements are echoed on the floors and walls of the interior of the school.
The schools can be distinguished from one another externally by the perforated window screens with special geometric patterns and basic colours. The Islamic school features three shades of azure in its colour palette, and the public school has various shades of earth. The patterns in the Islamic school are inspired by the windows of a mosque near Cairo in Egypt, and the public school features an organic variation on them.
The Children’s Centre is the cultural focus of the neighbourhood and plays an important symbolical and functional role for the area.