Cartesius Child Centre and Sports Hall by NEXT

Cartesius Child Centre and Sports Hall

In the brand new Cartesius neighbourhood in Utrecht, a sustainable primary school with daycare and sports hall will be built. A healthy lifestyle and living environment are central to the design. In a fluid spiral movement, the combined program is organized around a green heart. It is a sustainable and compact design with future value, which will play an active role in the green Cartesius district.

Primary school, nursery and sports hall operate independently, but also together under one roof, as one gesture. The Cartesius neighborhood is designed according to the Blue Zone concept: a healthy lifestyle and living environment that is derived from the five areas in the world where people live the longest and happiest.

The design of the child center with sports accommodation is an interpretation of the core values of the blue zones, converted into applicable terms for care and education for which nature and sustainability play an important role. The complex is a solitaire object in the green loop that encloses the neighborhood, where the nature flows on, in, over, and through.

In architecture, it creates a dialogue with the two other freestanding objects in the area, the Solo building by Zecc and the traffic control post by dJGA architects, with its rounded corners and cantilevers in the facade. The design is based on the continuous learning line, in which education and child care merge into one fluid movement in which the development of the child is central.

The architecture complies with this idea: the program is organized in a spiral movement around a green heart. Each age phase has its own and self-evident place in the building, which is logically linked to the next phase. Going to school becomes a journey in which the qualities of the educational environment move along with the trajectory of the child.

The youngest students have a safe place on the ground floor around their own verandas and play areas where the architecture is small-scale and offers shelter. When the students get older and move on to new places in the building, the architecture opens up and the connection with the outside world becomes stronger.

The shelter and security that characterizes the place for the youngest groups is smoothly transferred into places that lend themselves to meeting and interaction, places that the older students can appropriate. The learning spiral is accentuated by the principle of ‘no dead ends’, a building without dead corners.

The open space in the building functions as a linking chain between bigger and smaller squares. Each playground has its own meaning within the Blue Zones concept and offers space for one of the different age categories. This design principle optimizes the use of the surface area, ensures a natural flow through the building, and creates a safe environment that stimulates interaction and synergy between the users.

The Cartesius Child Center will be an energy neutral (ENG) building, which matches the municipality’s ambition to realize the most sustainable and circular building in the Netherlands. The primary school is designed as a biobased construction with a clear identity and structure and with recognizable entrances. By taking the landscape from the surrounding up to the roof gardens, the complex connects seamlessly with the green character of the area.

The building is nature-inclusive, ensuring that nature can be experienced from different kinds of places throughout the building. For example, there will be nesting houses, bee hotels and tiny forests and the roof gardens will be furnished with vegetable gardens, so that students and teachers can see and experience nature from anywhere. Source by NEXT.

  • Location: Utrecht, Netherlands
  • Architect: NEXT
  • Design Team: Bart Reuser, Marijn Schenk, Michel Schreinemachers with Wouter van der Velpen, Jip Vorstermans, Liesbeth Sträter (NEXT) en Mikkel Sørensen, Francisco Villeida (CCO)
  • Collaborators: Christensen & Co Architects, B+B Urbanism and Landscape Architecture, BREED Integrated Design, Deerns, DGMR, Vitrivius
  • Client: Municipality of Utrecht
  • Size: 6.760 m2 (3.712 m2 school / 3.048 m2 sports hall)
  • Year: 2023
  • Images: Courtesy of NEXT