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Getting Schooled

When trying to help the environment, we all think of the three “R”s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Yet Belgian architects are introducing a fourth “R”: Refurbish! Architect Lieven Dejaeghere paired with a social housing company in Izegem to create cheap, functional and modern rental housing out of a former school building.

The Heilig Hartschool, was built in 1913 and lived through both of the World Wars. The building holds a lot of historical and cultural significance to its town, so the aim was to keep as much of the school’s aesthetic as possible—while still offering comfortable housing.

Ultimately, each classroom was transformed into a one-bedroom apartment. The school’s original façade, walls, and roofs were maintained, but greenhouse glass was incorporated to separate living spaces such as the bedroom from the living room and the kitchen. The final result is seventeen modern and well-lit open apartments with tall ceilings that are warm and inviting. At the same time, the design preserves “old school” character with its brick and patterned floor tiling.

Even though the space is no longer a school, this social housing offers the same sense of community that could be once found at the playground. Each apartment opens up to the central space that has now become a communal park with trees and even a pond.

Through refurbishing, architects are giving older buildings an opportunity for a second life, decreasing waste by not demolishing, and in cases like these, creating more accessible housing. Can it get any better than that?

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