Democratic School Amsterdam

The former Coopery Museum in Amsterdam is an extension to the Mill of Sloten, a polder mill and provincial monument. Economic conditions forced the museum to close its doors in 2020. It turned out to be the perfect building to house the Democratic School Amsterdam, which was looking for new accommodation. The school invited Serge Schoemaker Architects to design the crowdfunded museum conversion, which has been completely executed by volunteers.

The hallmarks of democratic education are small class sizes, individual guidance and learning at your own pace. Many of the children who attend the private school are unable to cope with normal educational environments for a variety of reasons. Such children become overburdened or unhappy in regular schools because of dyslexia, high intelligence, extreme sensitivity, ADHD or other reasons. The Coopery Museum building turned out to be the perfect place to provide a safe learning environment for these children.

The former exhibition area on the ground floor has been divided into smaller group spaces to facilitate the change in function. We created an appealing central access route, with the corridor walls meandering around the existing timber trusses. That leaves the loadbearing structure of the museum intact and also turns it into an integral part of the design. Moreover, the meandering form creates surprising spatial effects and broader functional zones in the corridor as well as in the class rooms.

Advantage of the absence of connections between the existing and new structures is that the interventions can be undone without leaving behind too many traces. The new partition walls are made of detachable prefabricated components with an environmentally friendly core of flax. The sustainable walls are finished in clay stucco and clay paint, which also contribute to a healthy indoor climate. The strip of glass that extends across the top of the new partitions ensures optimal daylight conditions and maximizes views of the existing timber trusses. The many windows create a sense of space, without distracting the children during lessons.


Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Date: 2021-2022
Status: Completed
Client: Democratic School Amsterdam
Project team: Serge Schoemaker, Ottavia Profumo | Tessa Spoelstra

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