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Architecture Workroom
Brussels

CS Genk— Campus Bret 21st century learning landscape

With the concept study 'Campus Bret 21st century learning landscape', the City of Genk aims to upgrade the school campuses of thirteen different schools, in terms of their spatial, social and educational components. Today, the link between the school campus and its immediate surroundings, the rest of the city and related life is rather limited. Moreover, it is generally assumed that Genk school campuses have to contend with what is referred to as a 'white flight to the suburbs'. And lastly, the idea is to use the landscape to respond to social challenges and the need for new educational concepts. The Architecture Workroom Brussels team, 51N4E and anthropologist-pedagogue Ruth Soenen of Simply Community were selected for this project.

In response to the three-part question of the school campus, involving space, diversity and education, a broader, socio-spatial approach is crucial from the outset. In addition the mutual link between the city and diverse society on the one hand, and the learning landscape on the other, is key. This is consistent with a general trend, in which it is not only schools that are reflecting on how they can break down their walls: the healthcare and welfare sector is also contemplating the idea of no longer isolating care or illness but increasingly making it part of our everyday life.

This means we cannot solely view the role of design as developing a spatial design plan, along with a social agenda. We firmly believe in an ongoing story. The many challenges at Campus Bret demand a strong, well-designed spatial foundation that integrates the future learning landscape on different levels in the broader environment. Our aim is to connect the various sub-projects in an over-arching future vision with which diverse parties can identify, on both the spatial and social levels. At the same time we are highly committed to a more tight-knit, and process-steered approach.

This study began with a series of bilateral discussions with the boards of the thirteen schools involved. In addition dozens of discussions were held with pupils, technical staff, local residents, people from local associations, municipal services involved in this and other relevant projects, and other design agencies active in Genk. Using a series of thematic workshops, each comprising a selection of a very diverse group of participants, we linked these insights to potential change scenarios illustrated using design research. We developed these scenarios by positioning the Bret campus in a broader (spatial and social) context and using the montage of various 'clues' from the discussions in which recognisable elements were moulded into a new concept. During the workshops this material was discussed, explored and elaborated further. This finally resulted in a strategic development plan.

In this project we are not working towards a 'take it or leave it' plan, but have adopted a systematic approach for minor and major interventions, which could be spatial as well as social, more structural or punctual in nature. This is how we are striving to jointly lay the foundations and determine the direction of a learning landscape that could continue to develop in years to come.

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CS Genk— Campus Bret 21st century learning landscape
With structural support from the Flemish government and regular support from the Brussels capital region and other regional and local governments.