Heliomare Youth Centre. Schools, rehabilitation, health care & sports in the same building.
The Heliomare Rehabilitation Centre and the municipality of Heemskerk are cooperating to restructure the 1960s residential development of Velst. The Heliomare Youth Centre is a unique concept which combines all kinds of facilities for children and adolescents with physical, intellectual or multiple disabilities. They share a single building together with a neighbourhood function. The Youth Centre moreover integrates a multifunctional sports facility with four gyms and a swimming pool. The building is a compact, robust block with over 12,000 m2 of floor space. At its centre, there is a public plaza that accommodates a restaurant and conference facilities with a patio. At the same time, the building projects an open aspect towards the surroundings by means of a peripheral veranda that intermediates between the educational function and the outside world. The surrounding public space becomes a park with play areas for children of all ages.
The complex, with its fringe of greenery, harmonizes with the surrounding 1960s buildings thanks to the simplicity of the main volume and the building materials used, in particular brick in yellowish tints. The building has a graduated pattern made up of two brick colours, with the darker colour densest at ground level where the façades are susceptible to dirt and growing lighter upwards. The effect is to visually unite the volume and to provide a nuanced appearance which is particularly effective on the largely opaque outer wall of the sports complex.
The brickwork pattern also results in durable ageing, since gradual staining of the façade will never become conspicuous. An independent pattern of large, round windows on the north side admits filtered daylight into the sports halls. The other three sides have a full-length veranda, which creates a soft transition between inside and outside which is an advantage for the target group that better tolerates a low-stimulus environment. Rainwater from the veranda roof runs via chains into the surrounding planters. The omnidirectional building has multiple recognizable entrances with arched shapes.
Multifunctional, flexible building with spatial diversity
The general structure of the school building is lucid and graspable as a whole, with short connections and efficient routing and logistics. The structure allows for smart compartmentalization of the interior space into logical units. The compact volume is amenable to an efficient and spatially interesting general organization, with double-height spaces and floor openings. A playground deck at the upper level achieves an optimal relationship between the facade and the floor surface.
Flexibility was an explicit requirement of the clients, with whom we worked in close cooperation. The future-ready construction, with its flexible shell consisting of a wide span column structure, results in floor surfaces with the greatest possible freedom in the plan. Periodic changes in the building’s interior layout of large, small, lively and quiet rooms can be implemented smoothly.
The general layout is based on a circulation pattern without dead-end passages. This is an easier structure for the children, for example because wheelchair users can take a circular route without encountering obstacles.
Many of the children who attend the Heliomare Youth Centre have visual impairments. Orientation aids, acoustics, a logical structure, adequate lighting and materials with appropriate tactile qualities all matter to those who have to cope with visual and other handicaps.
It is important for the children to feel safe and at ease. Forms, furnishings, materials and colours can all play a role in this. Skirtings and door and window frames have contrasting colours to assist in the recognition of rooms and entrances. The interiors are generally low-stimulus while still offering sufficient visual contrast. The materials, including brick, have been selected for their pleasant tactile qualities such as smoothness and warmth, while sharp edges and corners are avoided. Everywhere, a balance has been sought between daylight and artificial lighting. Surface and system designs are based on restful patterns and harmonious proportions.