The new sports centre in Sportpark Ookmeer, on the border of the Amsterdam districts of Geuzenveld-Slotermeer and Osdorp, is a combination of the Academy of Physical Education and Health Club 'Splash" Amsterdam. OeverZaaijer architecture and urbanism opted to combine both programmes under one roof so as to allow a dynamic interaction of the various user groups. The firm of architects developed a transparent spatial concept, which not only stimulates the interaction between the school and the sports club, but also the interaction among the various educational functions. The spatial and functional design consciously uses open spaces, lines of sight and exciting views to create a close relationship between academic theory and practical application. In doing so, the building expresses the educational vision, based on the 'to see is to learn' philosophy. The synergy between the user groups plays an important part in the architectonic design. By making the activities in the building visible, the building reflects the lively and dynamic character of its youthful users. The building's vigorous appearance has a positive influence on the surroundings and thus contributes to the quality of the neighbourhood.

Urban planning context

The development phase of the building design was preceded by an extensive study and analysis of the urban planning context. The area around Sportpark Ookmeer has been zoned as a green space, in which only limited construction for sports-related purposes is permitted. Despite the relatively large volume required to house the desired programme, OeverZaaijer architecture and urbanism has realised a functional building in which the mass of the building has been given a reserved place. This has been achieved by housing the largest volumes in the programme, such as the sports halls, in a two-storey basement that is visually integrated in the surrounding polder landscape. This part of the building has the appearance of a grass-covered dike, interspersed with coarse basalt block revetments. Part of this angularly rising basement is equipped with a wooden grandstand, which looks out over the sports fields. A tightly designed box of glass rises above the dike. Its transparent, technical appearance strongly contrasts with the natural, landscaped character of the basement. Offices and classrooms are situated in this volume.

The integration of the building in the landscape anticipates the future development of the area. In working out the task, OeverZaaijer did not restrict themselves to their own assignment, but also aimed to provide a start for the further development of the sports park as a dynamic activity centre for the neighbourhood. In OeverZaaijer's urban planning vision, the location offers excellent opportunities for the development of a lively sports campus and also offers space for two new sports halls for both students of the Academy and people from the neighbourhood. Its strategic location between the Ookmeerlaan and the sports hall and sports fields makes the school a link between landscape and city.

Spatial organisation

OeverZaaijer conducted extensive research before drawing up the highly extensive schedule of requirements for the new combination building. Both principals and users were interviewed in order to draw up a list of wishes and requirements to ensure that the functional organisation of the areas would optimally support their daily use. The new combined building comprises areas with diverse, strongly differing functions, such as classrooms, laboratories, sports halls, childcare space, a swimming pool, a sauna, and space for a café/restaurant. The different functions have been organised on both sides of a central interior walkway, which runs over two storeys. This interior walkway, which bathes in natural light, forms the social heart of the complex and dissects the entire building lengthways. The Health Club is located in the basement on the southern sidewall of the building. The Academy of Physical Education is located in the remaining basement space and in the three storeys of the small volume above it. Both user groups have their own entrance on the Ookmeerweg side, but the functions are also connected to one another via the interior walkway. This set-up means the academy and the sports club can easily make use of each other's facilities. The interior walkway can be closed off at various points, thus easily allowing independent exploitation and use during the evenings.

Seeing and being seen

The activities in the large sports halls can be followed from the interior walkway via the high glass walls. The open character of the areas in which the sports activities take place and the areas for studying and teaching, such as the open study landscape, contribute to the building's lively atmosphere. The study landscape is divided over two stories and makes a natural spatial transition to the interior walkway. The glass walls also allow a view on the activities in the sports halls from this study area on the second story. The building's open character consciously makes a close link between theory and practice. Seeing and being seen are part of the curriculum, allowing the development of social skills to be given attention in a natural way. Everywhere – along the interior walkway, in the canteen, the study landscape or the locker room – there is plenty of opportunity to meet one another. By not directly linking the changing rooms to the sports halls, the interior walkway is regularly populated by groups in sports gear. In this way, the students themselves express the sportive nature of the education taking place.

The clear, transparent spatial set-up of the building provides the backdrop for an attractive, dynamic spectacle, in which teachers and students gladly participate. By also opening the building to the outside world, e.g. via the large glass surfaces in the canteen or the glass walls of the Health Club along the Ookmeerlaan, some of this dynamism is projected into the environment. This means that young people in the surrounding residential areas are given an opportunity to get to know the education that they may want to follow themselves at a later time. In this way, the new sports complex is given extra significance for the neighbourhood.

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