Symposium Symposium

The European Symposium on the Classroom, a teenage view project, will take place at Z33 in Hasselt, Belgium on Thursday, February 15th and Friday, February 16th, 2024.


Z33 by Olmo Peeters

The symposium will begin by acknowledging the Covid-pandemic’s impact on students, who had to study from home, without any changes to their learning environments when they returned to in-person education. This situation highlights a longstanding gap between the way we learn and the physical spaces where learning occurs, underscoring the importance of this issue.  

For years, the conventional classroom with frontal teaching has faced scrutiny, with mixed results. The rise of digitalization has significantly changed how we learn. The COVID-19 crisis has sped up the shift away from traditional teaching methods towards personalized digital learning. This transformation demands new learning environments and challenges the traditional school structure. 

Schools are no longer isolated; they want to engage with their communities. "Broad school" concepts allow outside use of school facilities after hours, and vocational education emphasizes partnerships with industries through "dual learning" programs. This shift challenges the traditional view of schools as isolated, encouraging connections with neighboring organizations. 

Today, it's clear that existing buildings will remain a significant part of future education.  

Most of Europe's school buildings were constructed between the 1950s and 1990s, reflecting outdated pedagogical and technological norms. These aging structures pose significant renovation challenges. Urgent measures are needed to facilitate this transition. 

Two key questions arise from these observations and will be addressed during the symposium:  

- What kind of learning environments do we need now? 
- How can we adapt the existing school buildings to meet these new requirements? 

It will be a rich and diverse program featuring various voices that will shed light on the architecture of schools from various perspectives. The speakers will primarily consist of (international) architects, but in addition to that, we will also have researchers and policymakers.

Among the notable participants are: Lisa Rosén Rasmussen (Aarhus University, Denmark), Erik Wieërs (Flemish Government Architect), Arwed Mohrmann (Baupiloten), Pamela Woolner (Newcastle University, UK) and Susanne Pietsch (TU Delft). 

In addition to the program, the book launch of the project will take place on the first day of the symposium. During the second day, there are school visits scheduled in Brussels. 

The symposium will be conducted in English.

Program February 15th

Morning session - Classroom a teenage view

Adinda Van Geystelen: Welcome

Adinda van Geystelen, artistic director of Z33, opens the symposium with an opening speech.

Joaquim Moreno and Maria Emanuel Albergarie: Themes of Classroom a teenage view

Joaquim Moreno and Maria Emanuel Albergaria discuss the themes that are explored in Classroom, a teenage view.

Maarten Van Den Driessche: Introduction to the symposium

Maarten Van Den Driessche gives an introduction to the symposium.

Erik Wieërs: setting the agenda, after 20 years of school building

During his talk, Erik Wieërs draws attention to the importance of the government in future school construction.


Visit of the exhibition in Z33, House for Contemporary Art, Design & Architecture

The participants visit the Classroom exhibition in Z33.


Afternoon session - The transformation of the school program

Maarten Van Den Driessche: Introduction to the afternoon session

Maarten Van Den Driessche introduces the themes of the afternoon session.

Lisa Rosén Rasmussen: About the everyday utopian work of the new Danish open-plan schools in the 1970s

 In her talk, Lisa focusses on how teachers through their mundane practices of teaching, adapted to but also (re)shaped the new educational architecture of the open-plan schools and the pedagogical visions they materialized.

Case 1: GO! Talent Dendermonde, Lisa Dewulf (coordinator Internal Quality Assurance)

GO! Talent, formerly the Royal Technical Atheneum in Dendermonde, is a secondary school offering courses in the healthcare, commercial and industrial sectors. The school accommodates 1,050 students over an area of 5,954 m2 on the edge of Dendermonde's historic center. The design by B-architects and OMGEVING is conceived as a community campus that not only meets the contemporary needs of the school but also the spatial organization of the local educational landscape. The urban planning and architectural analysis of the site revealed the cultural importance of the existing 1920s Aria building. Its magnificent architecture and timeless layout define the spatial organization of the campus and the character of Begijnhoflaan. A new school building on the western side of the site, is a three-story structure with mainly the industrial departments and sports facilities carefully brought together in a compact volume. The circulation zones, conceived as semi-outdoor spaces, wrap around the building at each level and act as mediators between the indoor and outdoor environments, while also dampening climate conditions and noise levels both inside and outside. All three buildings are connected by a continuum of public and semi-public spaces. Three central plazas simultaneously connect and isolate the buildings, creating a common space for play and meeting.


Case 2: Baupiloten, Arwed Mohrmann

Baupiloten BDA is a different kind architecture firm founded by Susanne Hofmann in 2001. They aim to understand precisely the specific needs and preferences of the people who utilize their architectural designs. In order to achieve this, Baupiloten BDA has developed a systematic and methodical approach to actively involve users in the design process. Their primary focus is on empowering people to actively shape their living, learning and working environments. Baupiloten BDA firmly believes that exceptional and sustainable architecture can only be achieved when it aligns with the desires of the people who use it.


Roundtable session: Exploring Pedagogy: Impact on education and environment, with Eva Amelynck, Lisa Rosén Rasmussen, Arwed Mohrmann, Pamela Woolner and moderator Joaquim Moreno

How have educational concepts evolved throughout history, and how have these evolutions impacted the concept of the architectural environment where educational activities occur?

Book launch


Book launch with André Tavares and Catherine Burke

Drawing from the research developed for the exhibition, this book presents a set of contemporary architectural projects in order to address the challenges of the classroom from a teenage point of view. The examples, from all around the world, are set in dialogue with five post-war twentieth century schools that are presented as seeds of pedagogical discourses. The architecture is framed by a conversation between the curator for the project, Joaquim Moreno, and historian of education, Catherine Burke, and a short anthology of texts that present prospective ambitions for learning environments.


Program February 16th

Morning session - The transformation of school patrimony

Adinda Van Geystelen: Welcome

Adinda Van Geystelen, Artistic Director of Z33, welcomes the participants to the second day of the symposium.

Susanne Pietsch: Crafting the Future: Exploring European Vocational Education and Architecture

Susanne Pietsch talks about European vocational education and the architecture needed for it.


Case 3: Klein Seminarie Hoogstraten, Tim Vekemans (RE-ST, UHasselt)

The Klein Seminarie is a school in Hoogstraten that was established in 1835. The building consists of various parts that, together, form an urban whole. It is a school in the city with ambitions to incorporate the city into the school environment. In the search for a designer, the school board was convinced that the need for a renewed entrance had to be realized through a new construction project. During the competition phase, it became clear to us that the school campus struggled with a historically grown excess of built space. The historical and generous entrance of the school had fallen into disuse over the decades. This analysis proved to be a real eye-opener for the board members and led to a different perception of the available space. In a collaboration between the designer and the client, gradual shaping is taking place to maximize the use of all available space within the Klein Seminarie for both school and extracurricular activities. This means that we need to think beyond the (current) needs of the school. In practice, this is not always self-evident. An empathetic design process is necessary.

Tim Vekemans, along with his firm RE-ST, served as the project's architect.

Case 4: Ricardo Gordon: Transforming and extending heritage spaces

This presentation will focus on experiences carried out in existing secondary schools. New pedagogy models imply new school spaces. How to constructively adapt existing and precarious schools into new reference models for school communities?


Roundtable session: Architectural Innovation: Building from within, with Susanne Pietsch, Tim Vekemans, Ricardo Gordon, Maarten Simons, Barbara Pampe and moderator Maarten Van Den Driessche

How are existing structures transformed from within? What are the challenges in renovating and revitalizing existing building stock?

Afternoon school visits, Brussels

Bus to Leuven, De Wijnpers - OFFICE

Secondary school De Wijnpers: lunch and short visit

Bus to Egied Van Broeckhovenschool

Visit to Egied Van Broeckhovenschool, Sint-Jans Molennbeek Brussels, with a tour by Inge Pieters (PREO) and senior project architect Sandra Ghesquiere (B2Ai Architecten)

The Egied van Broeckhoven School is a new Dutch-speaking school that will offer a renewed secondary education in the multicultural neighborhood around the West Station in Sint-Jans-Molenbeek, focusing on the domains of STEM and Society and Welfare. The new infrastructure allows a wide range of classrooms and outdoor spaces that can be put to wide use, through which the project wants to be the link between the learning landscape and the nearby environment and society. The school will be located in the buildings of the former Vandenheuvel brewery, literally nestling itself into the existing urban fabric. The program was formed with a rich selection of stakeholders both from the educational providers as from the different governmental levels involved.

Bus to secondary school 't Karreveld, Sint-Jans Molenbeek Brussels

Visit to secondary school 't Karreveld, Sint-Jans Molenbeek Brussels, with a tour by Sofie Devriendt

The former Takeda offices are refurbished and extended to house a new secondary school, complete with a sports hall and cafeteria. The office block occupies the center of the plot. A first movement involves the careful location of a new, longitudinal volume along one neighbouring wall, from the street to the very back of the plot. The sports hall adjoins the street and can be used in the evenings. The cafeteria is located at the heart of the school. The entrance of the school is located where the two volumes meet. An office building is organized around its elevators. However, for a school, open, generous staircases are fundamental. This is the place where this collective vertical circulation is possible. In its time, the prefab concrete facades of the Takeda builing provided a straightforward, constructively conscious architecture. Today, the extension echoes this approach by the use of massive isolating masonry and adapted detailing.

Bus to Brussels central train station and Z33

After the last school visit, the bus will first make a stop at Brussels central train station before continuing the journey back to Z33.


The symposium will take place in Z33, House for Contemporary Art, Design and Architecture.

Bonnefantenstraat 1,
3500 Hasselt

Are you in need of accommodation for a night in Hasselt? Check the invitation for hotel recommendations and discount codes.

On February 16th, there are school visits scheduled in Brussels. During that day, bus transfers to and from Z33 to Brussels will be arranged and provided. During the return trip, the bus will travel via Brussels Central Station to Z33.

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Disclaimer: the symposium is targeted towards a professional audience.