Hertzberger in Delft
by R. Thomas Hille
The Delft Montessori School in Delft, the Netherlands, is the archetype for Herman Hertzberger's Interactive School, incorporating a number of characteristic features and themes that encourage participation and appropriation of architectural forms as an integral part of the educational experience.
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The school operates on two basic levels: that of the school community, which is associated with a shared linear hall at the heart of the school; and that of the individual and class, which are associated with the classroom. The hall is analogous to a public street, and the classroom is like a private house that fronts onto it.
Throughout the school, their forms are articulated and developed to maximize interactive opportunities related to the educational program and the needs of the individual. Especially important are habitable zones between public and private realms at the entrance to the classroom, mediating with the hall, and at the entrance to the school, mediating with the outside community.
The tightly constrained site is located in a dense residential neighborhood west of the historic center of Delft, occupying a corner at the intersection of two major vehicular thoroughfares. The south side of the site is separated from the street by a canal, and the west side is protected by landscaping that was developed over time.
Access is from the east by way of a narrow residential street that turns and terminates in a small parking area directly east of the site, with a large apartment blocks opposite on this side, and across the adjacent street to the north. To moderate the scale of the building and maintain connections with the site, the school is only one story in height — this despite limited site area and continuing pressures over time for the school to grow.
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This article is excerpted from Modern Schools: A Century of Design for Education by R. Thomas Hille, copyright © 2011, with permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons.
In Delft, the Netherlands, Herman Hertzberger designed the Delft Montessori School, built in phases from 1966 to 1981.
Photo: R. Thomas Hille
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The main entry courtyard at the Delft Montessori School creates a zone of interaction that mediates between the school and street.
Photo: R. Thomas Hille
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