OMA’s David Gianotten and Michael den Otter – as part of the Circlewood consortium – have developed a modular wood system to create schools that can be easily transformed throughout the schools’ lifecycles.

The system has been selected by the City of Amsterdam as one of the bases to build multiple schools in the coming ten years.

Circlewood – a collective of architects, engineers, builders, and researchers with OMA as the Creative Director – has designed the system in response to the Innovation Partnership School Buildings program.

It is an initiative of the City of Amsterdam to realize nine to thirty “high-quality, flexible, and sustainable” schools that contribute to the city’s goal to become fully circular by 2050.
“The prefabricated wood plug-and-play system has been developed through close collaboration between the Circlewood partners. With this system, the new schools that will be built in Amsterdam, and hopefully elsewhere in the Netherlands, can expand, downscale, or vary in configurations to respond to different needs over time. When a school closes, the building can be fully dismantled, and all the components become construction materials again.”
Architect David Gianotten, OMA Managing Partner.

The system consists of standardized wooden columns and cross-laminated wooden floor panels, which are connected by recycled steel joints. All the components are precisely made in the factory under a digitally controlled process to ensure fast assembly and disassembly by an electric crane on site. These components are arranged into structural frameworks, leaving all the partition walls non-load-bearing to create spaces of different sizes and uses, including classrooms, auditoriums, and gardens. The partition walls are biobased and can be adapted to support activities such as indoor climbing and vertical farming.
 
“The system components are durable, adaptable, and easily assembled. This offers flexibility for the schools to shape learning environments that suit their identities.”
Michael den Otter, OMA Project Architect.


Innovation Partnership School Buildings by OMA. Rendering by Studio A Kwadraat, courtesy of OMA.

OMA and Circlewood conceptualize the schools as pedagogical tools that raise students’ consciousness of human impact on the environment. Contrary to greenwashing, the schools’ carbon footprint and resource consumption are visualized on information screens. The buildings are also inherently circular designs with minimized emissions – owing to the prefabricated building method that reduces nitrogen emissions, the carbon-absorbing biobased walls, and the building components that can be fully reused.

As Circlewood’s Creative Director, OMA will help with the selection of young architectural practices and landscape designers, and develop in collaboration with them new schools under the Innovation Partnership School Buildings program. A pilot school in Amsterdam has been developed in collaboration with Studio A Kwadraat. Functioning as an integrated children’s center, the compact building has a unique façade on each side, characterized by elements such as canopies and bike storage facilities that respond to the context and specific needs. The school has a spacious central hall for various children’s activities and different types of façade openings that offer frameworks for the children to perceive the environment. The program, layout, and appearance of the building can be refined and adapted over time.

Innovation Partnership School Buildings by OMA. Rendering by Studio A Kwadraat, courtesy of OMA.

“The method is a kind of construction kit, with many technical requirements resolved upfront. This allows us as an architect to quickly set up a clear structure of the building, and we can fully focus on the final user and the client.”
Jimmy van der Aa, Architect at Studio A Kwadraat

“Every school gets its own architect who works well with the school board and the context. Each school appears unique.”
Karin Kuipers, Circlewood Project Leader.

The current system designed by OMA and the Circlewood partners will be further refined, with the potential to be applied outside of Amsterdam and the Netherlands.

Circlewood consists of Noordereng Groep, Oosterhoff (ABT, Adviesbureau Lüning, bbn adviseurs), Studio A Kwadraat, DWA, Hedgehog Company, Heko Spanten B.V., EtuConsult, Lomans, Ferross Staalbouw, and OMA.
 

Project description by OMA / David Gianotten and Michael den Otter

Amsterdam will halve the use of primary raw materials by 2030 and become fully circular by 2050 – according to the Circular Strategy 2020-2025 proposed by the municipality. To meet Amsterdam’s circularity ambitions and the increasing demand for schools, the city government has initiated the Innovation Partnership School Buildings program to build nine to thirty “high-quality, flexible, and sustainable” schools in ten years. Circlewood – an alliance of architects, engineers, builders, and researchers, with OMA as the Creative Director and co-designer – has developed a modular wood system (the HoutKern Bouwmethode) to create a variety of schools, which can be easily transformed throughout the schools’ lifecycles to accommodate changing needs.

The prefabricated plug-and-play system consists of standardized wooden columns and cross-laminated wooden floor panels, which are connected by recycled steel joints. All the components are precisely made in the factory under a digitally controlled process to ensure fast assembly and disassembly by an electric crane on site. These components are arranged into 3.6 m wide, 7.2 m long, and up to three-story high structural frameworks, leaving all the partition walls non-load-bearing to create spaces of different sizes and uses – from standard classrooms and offices to auditorium and gymnasium, to gardens and athletic tracks. The biobased partition walls can be adapted to support different school activities such as indoor climbing and vertical farming. This system allows the school boards, architects, and other consultants to work together to define schools with unique characters. The system – with the durable and easily assembled components – also enables the schools to expand, downscale, or vary in configurations as needs change.

Circlewood conceptualizes the schools not only as spaces for learning but also as pedagogical tools that raise students’ consciousness of human impact on the environment. Contrary to greenwashing, schools visualize their carbon footprint and resource consumption on information screens. The buildings are also inherently circular designs with minimized emissions: The prefabricated building method reduces nitrogen emissions by 80 percent compared with standard onsite construction. The biobased walls – made with carbon-absorbing raw materials – are lighter and require less energy for transportation. At the end of the schools’ lifecycles, the buildings can be fully dismantled, and the components can be reused to create other types of buildings such as offices or homes.

As Circlewood’s Creative Director, OMA will help with the selection of young architectural practices and landscape designers, and develop in collaboration with them new schools under the Innovation Partnership School Buildings program. A pilot school in Amsterdam has been developed in collaboration with Studio A Kwadraat. Functioning as an integrated children’s center, the compact building has a unique façade on each side, characterized by elements such as canopies and bike storage facilities that respond to the context and specific needs. The school has a spacious central hall for various children’s activities and different types of façade openings that offer frameworks for the children to perceive the environment. As most technical challenges have been resolved through the development of the plug-and-play system, the program, layout, and appearance of the building can be refined and adapted over time.

The current system designed by OMA and the Circlewood partners will be further developed, with the potential to be used for different types of buildings outside of Amsterdam and the Netherlands.

Circlewood consists of Noordereng Groep, Oosterhoff (ABT, Adviesbureau Lüning, bbn adviseurs), Studio A Kwadraat, DWA, Hedgehog Company, Heko Spanten B.V., EtuConsult, Lomans, Ferross Staalbouw, and OMA.

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Architects
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OMA. Partner in Charge.- David Gianotten.

Project Architect.- Michael den Otter.
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Model team
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Matteo Fontana, Marc Heumer, Arthur Wong.
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Collaborators
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Collaborating Architect.- Studio A Kwadraat.

Building Physics.- DWA.

Sustainability.- Hedgehog Company.

Structural Engineer.- Adviesbureau Lüning, ABT.

Construction Cost Calculation.- bbn adviseurs.
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Client
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Area
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Education.- 3,600 m².
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Location
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Amsterdam, Netherlands.
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Project
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Innovation Partnership School Buildings.
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Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) is an international practice operating within the traditional boundaries of architecture and urbanism. AMO, a research and design studio, applies architectural thinking to domains beyond. OMA is led by eight partners – Rem Koolhaas, Reinier de Graaf, Ellen van Loon, Shohei Shigematsu, Iyad Alsaka, Chris van Duijn, Jason Long, and Managing Partner-Architect David Gianotten – and maintains offices in Rotterdam, New York, Hong Kong, Doha, and Australia. OMA-designed buildings currently under construction are the renovation of Kaufhaus des Westens (KaDeWe) in Berlin, The Factory in Manchester, Hangzhou Prism, the CMG Times Center in Shenzhen and the Simone Veil Bridge in Bordeaux.

OMA’s completed projects include Taipei Performing Arts Centre (2022), Audrey Irmas Pavilion in Los Angeles (2020), Norra Tornen in Stockholm (2020), Axel Springer Campus in Berlin (2020), MEETT Toulouse Exhibition and Convention Centre (2020), Galleria in Gwanggyo (2020), WA Museum Boola Bardip (2020), nhow RAI Hotel in Amsterdam (2020), a new building for Brighton College (2020), and Potato Head Studios in Bali (2020). Earlier buildings include Fondazione Prada in Milan (2018), Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow (2015), De Rotterdam (2013), CCTV Headquarters in Beijing (2012), Casa da Música in Porto (2005), and the Seattle Central Library (2004).

AMO often works in parallel with OMA's clients to fertilize architecture with intelligence from this array of disciplines. This is the case with Prada: AMO's research into identity, in-store technology, and new possibilities of content-production in fashion helped generate OMA's architectural designs for new Prada epicenter stores in New York and Los Angeles. In 2004, AMO was commissioned by the European Union to study its visual communication, and designed a colored "barcode" flag, combining the flags of all member states, which was used during the Austrian presidency of the EU. AMO has worked with Universal Studios, Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, Heineken, Ikea, Condé Nast, Harvard University and the Hermitage. It has produced Countryside: The Future, a research exhibited at Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York; exhibitions at the Venice Architecture Biennale, including Public Works (2012), Cronocaos (2010), and The Gulf (2006); and for Fondazione Prada, including When Attitudes Become Form (2012) and Serial and Portable Classics (2015). AMO, with Harvard University, was responsible for the research and curation of the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale and its publication Elements. Other notable projects are Roadmap 2050, a plan for a Europe-wide renewable energy grid; Project Japan, a 720-page book on the Metabolism architecture movement (Taschen, 2010); and the educational program of Strelka Institute in Moscow.

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David Gianotten is the Managing Partner – Architect of OMA globally, responsible for the overall organizational and financial management, business strategy, and growth of the company in all markets, in addition to his own architectural portfolio.

As Partner-in-Charge, David currently oversees the design and construction of various projects including the Taipei Performing Arts Centre; the Prince Plaza Building in Shenzhen; the KataOMA resort in Bali; the New Museum for Western Australia in Perth; the masterplan of Rotterdam’s Feyenoord City and the design of the new 63,000 seat Stadium Feijenoord; and Amsterdam’s Bajes Kwartier, a conversion of a large 1960s prison complex into a new neighborhood with 1,350 apartments.

David led the design and realization of the MPavilion 2017 in Melbourne and the Shenzhen Stock Exchange headquarters. He was also responsible for the end stages of the CCTV headquarters in Beijing. David’s work has been published worldwide and several of his projects have received international awards, including the 2017 Melbourne Design Awards and the CTBUH Awards in 2013. David gives lectures around the world mainly related to his projects and on topics such as the future development of the architectural profession, the role of context within projects, and speed and risk in architecture.

David joined OMA in 2008, launched OMA's Hong Kong office in 2009, and became partner in 2010. He became OMA’s global Managing Partner – Architect in 2015 upon his return to the Netherlands after having led OMA’s portfolio in Asia for seven years. Before joining OMA, he was Principal Architect at SeARCH in the Netherlands.

David studied Architecture and Architectural Engineering at the Eindhoven University of Technology, where he has also served as a professor in the Architectural Urban Design and Engineering department since 2016. Additionally, he serves on the board of the Netherlands Asia Honors Summer School.

 
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