Melopee School: Diverse and Extensive


Architects: XDGA
Location: Ghent, Belgium
Area: 2.625 m2
Year: 2020
Photography: Maxime Delvaux

In the harbor area, a narrow stretch of land along a dock is freed from port activities. A very simple ‘chop stick’ urban plan is developed by O.M.A. in which green open pockets alternate with dense construction. In order to offer a notion of centrality to the linear plan, a public path is meant to cross the whole strip.

The site for the school faces one green area to the south, the dock to the west, a square and a housing block to the north, and the harbor road to the east. The requested program for the building – a combination of a primary school, an after-school center, a nursery, and sports facilities for both the school and its neighborhood, – is diverse and extensive.

On top, it requires a great deal of specific outdoor playgrounds. In order to counter the lack of space, deal with the inside-outside complexity of programs, and allow for the public path to pass, the maximum building envelope is divided into two halves: one compact building housing all the interior functions, and an outside space in which the playgrounds are stacked. In between them, and under a first floor playground realized in glass tiles, the path crosses the volume.

A galvanized steel skeleton unifies the two halves. On the side of the interior volume, the façades of the building are designed as a patchwork of opaque and translucent polycarbonate, glass, and aluminum louvres. The outside structure will be overgrown with vegetation climbing along a steel mesh, into which some large openings are cut.