Cygnus Gymnasium

Vrolikstraat 8
Commer de Geus & Ben Ingwersen; Wessel de Jonge
1956; 2012
Metrostation Wibautstraat (51; 53; 54)

The grammar school ‘Cygnus Gymnasium’ moved into the building of the former technical school ‘Eerste Christelijke LTS Patrimonium’ on Wibautstraat a year ago. After forty years as a technical school, in 2012 the building was radically restored in order to meet current sustainability requirements.

Le Corbusier
The building was designed in 1952 by the architects Commer de Geus and Ben Ingwersen and was completed in 1956. It was modelled on Le Corbusier’s iconic ‘Unité d’Habitation’. This immense building in Marseille was regarded as a ‘housing factory’ made of modernist materials such as steel and concrete. Like its French predecessor, the school building rests on pilotis – concrete columns – and contains brises-soleil or concrete screen facades. Because of its shape, the building is also known as ‘het Schip’ (the Ship). It was given national listed status in 2009.

The ground floor housed the technical school’s workshops: a forge, a sheet metal workshop and a large garage space for car mechanics. On the top floor were the theoretical and practical instruction rooms, an auditorium and a gymnasium. For the Cygnus ‘technical grammar school’, the workshops were converted into multidisciplinary science labs, the forge is now a fitness room and the former garage, whose roller doors have been preserved, houses the school canteen.

Prior to restoration, the building was in a poor state of repair. The solar protection did not work properly and ventilation was difficult due to the increase in traffic and fine particles. The large workshops had been divided into smaller spaces and the concrete interior had been painted mint green and peach.
The architectural firm Wessel de Jonge began the restoration of the building, which had to meet the requirements of the so-called ‘Frisse Scholen’ (clean air schools), in 2012. Great emphasis was placed on energy-saving measures and a balanced ventilation system. In addition, the concrete was completely restored as were the various artworks inside and outside the building, including a wall relief by Harry op de Laak and a sculpture by Willem Reijer. (AT)