Innovative Modular Wood System 7for Amsterdam's Future Schools

In a significant development, renowned architectural firm OMA, led by David Gianotten, in collaboration with the Circlewood consortium, has devised a
Modular Wood System
Modular Wood SystemImage Source - OMA

In a significant development, renowned architectural firm OMA, led by David Gianotten, in collaboration with the Circlewood consortium, has devised a pioneering modular wood system designed to create schools with remarkable adaptability throughout their lifespan. The City of Amsterdam has selected this system as one of the foundational approaches for constructing multiple schools over the next decade, aligning with the city's commitment to becoming fully circular by 2050.

The Circlewood consortium, comprising architects, engineers, builders, and researchers, with OMA as the Creative Director, has developed this system as part of the Innovation Partnership School Buildings program initiated by the City of Amsterdam. The program aims to realize a series of high-quality, flexible, and sustainable schools that contribute to the city's circularity goals.

Architect and OMA Managing Partner, David Gianotten, highlights the key features of the prefabricated wood plug and play system. Through close collaboration within the Circlewood partnership, this system enables the construction of new schools in Amsterdam and potentially throughout the Netherlands, with the ability to expand, downscale, or adapt configurations based on evolving needs. When a school reaches the end of its lifecycle, the entire building can be dismantled, and all components can be repurposed as construction materials, demonstrating a commitment to sustainability.

The system comprises standardized wooden columns and cross-laminated wooden floor panels connected by recycled steel joints. These precisely crafted components are manufactured in a controlled factory process, allowing for efficient assembly and disassembly using an electric crane on-site. The partition walls are non-load-bearing, offering flexibility to create spaces of varying sizes and functions, including classrooms, auditoriums, and gardens. Furthermore, the biobased partition walls can be adapted to support indoor climbing and vertical farming activities.

Michael den Otter, OMA Project Architect, emphasizes the durability, adaptability, and ease of assembly of the system's components. This flexibility empowers schools to shape learning environments that align with their unique identities and pedagogical approaches.

In addition to their functional aspects, OMA and Circlewood envision these schools as pedagogical tools to raise students' awareness of human impact on the environment. Unlike mere "greenwashing," the schools will feature information screens that visualize their carbon footprint and resource consumption. The circular design of the buildings, achieved through the prefabricated construction method, carbon-absorbing biobased walls, and fully reusable components, ensures minimized emissions and a sustainable footprint.

As the Creative Director of Circlewood, OMA will contribute to the selection of emerging architectural practices and landscape designers. Together, they will develop new schools under the Innovation Partnership School Buildings program. A pilot school has already been created in collaboration with Studio A Kwadraat, serving as an integrated children's center with a distinctive façade and adaptable interior spaces. The program, layout, and appearance of the building can evolve over time to meet evolving needs.

The current system designed by OMA and Circlewood will undergo further refinement and has the potential for application beyond Amsterdam and the Netherlands. Circlewood, composed of various partners such as Noordereng Groep, Oosterhoff, and Studio A Kwadraat, envisions each school having its own architect to ensure a unique design that integrates harmoniously with the school board and local context.

The selected consortiums, including Circlewood, De Elementaire School, and Het Schoolvoorbeeld, will collectively construct between nine to thirty schools in Amsterdam over the next ten years, revolutionizing the future of educational infrastructure in the city.

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