De Meester’s history lessons

Living in a school building full of stories


Living in a monumental school building would appeal to anyone’s imagination. The old school for craftmanship, built in 1922, stands in Haarlem, and Inbo is joining forces with COD to transform this building into housing complex De Meester (Dutch for ‘the Master’). The high classrooms will be made into 130 spacious apartments with balconies. Behind the current building, a new one will be erected to add another 46 apartments. Architects Rik Bakker and Niek Schouten tell us about this project.

Rik: ‘It is a fantastic building with a rich history. It was the first school building with a corridor structure: halls with classrooms on both sides. On the Dag van de Architectuur (the Day of Architecture), we made a call for former students to come share their stories with us. Many people showed up with memories and photos of their younger years in school. We will express these stories in the building. De residents will really experience the fact that they are living in a former school. For example, the facilities will be implemented at the centre of the apartment, to keep the feeling of space of a classroom.

We sought extensively for connection with the surroundings. Haarlem really has a culture of hofjes – courtyards surrounded by almshouses. Once the two hofjes are restored to their former glory, the complex will once again seamlessly connect with them. The new building ties in with the old one through the rhythm in its façade, and the colour of the bricks makes it part of the neighbourhood.’

Niek: ‘We kept discovering new things. It truly is a scavenger hunt throughout history. We recently found traces of a skylight in the attic roof that was covered up years ago. The transformation of the building from a school into a housing complex will connect the residents to the affluent history of the building and the lives of the former users. A unique location to live in.’

- Project De Meester, Haarlem

Further information: Rik Bakker, Niek Schouten