Paul de Ruiter

"DENISE" The New Esprit International School

Restoring a listed school building to its former glory

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The Esprit consortium of schools is a household name in Amsterdam. It consists of twelve schools that are deeply committed to providing a multicultural, dynamic and international education in the most conducive learning environments possible.The New Esprit International School (DENISE) in Overtoomse Veld is one of the twelve. It offers children of all nationalities a bilingual primary and secondary education, allowing its students to acquire proficiency in both English and Dutch.In response to an expanding student body, the consortium commissioned Paul de Ruiter Architects to renovate the former premises of the Cartesius Lyceum on Piet Mondriaanstraat, and equip it to meet the comprehensive requirements of a contemporary education.

The building was designed in 1959 by architect Jan Leupen and is largely a copy of the Spinoza Lyceum in Amsterdam Zuid. Our design aims to restore the listed building to its former glory, and modify it to accommodate DENISE’s primary and secondary education offering.

Education, Interior, Redevelopment
DENISE's new school building will lend additional vibrancy and dynamism to the neighbourhood

Vibrancy and dynamism to the neighbourhood

DENISE is situated on the Piet Mondriaanplein in Overtoomse Veld, Amsterdam Nieuw-West. The neighbourhood is currently undergoing rapid and substantial development. The renovated Cartesius Lyceum building will bring additional freshness, vibrancy and dynamism to the neighbourhood.

DENISE’s provision of both primary and secondary education informed our design, allowing us to separate the two educational groups in the most natural way possible within the same building.

The former basement is to become the new ground floor

Lowering the ground level and modifying the existing entrance allows us to transform the basement into the new ground floor, and provide enough room to accommodate all of DENISE’s primary school needs.

The classrooms on this floor are situated along the façade, and can be amalgamated or separated as required by use of sliding partitions concealed in the internal walls. The floor-to-ceiling glass walls that make up the façade ensure an abundance of natural light, and afford the most expansive views possible.

Each classroom has direct access to the playground, allowing students from each class to move indoors or outdoors at any time without disturbing the other classes. This affords calm within the building, and encourages the use of outdoor space for learning activities.

The indoor playroom is the heart of this floor. The room’s thick wall functions as an acoustic shield. Warmly inviting alcoves on the opposite side of the wall offer irresistible spots for quiet reading.

One identity by consistent interior

The upper floors are devoted to secondary education. The aesthetic of the primary education floor continues on the upper floors to ensure a single coherent identity that is characterised by functionality and flexibility.

Natural light floods these upper floors, too, owing to the continuation of the floor-to-ceiling glass walls that, in addition, give the spaces an open character. The wide corridor connecting the various classrooms includes study and lounge areas that lend themselves to flexible use during the school day.

The theatre is the heart of the school

Drama is an important part of the primary and secondary curriculum at DENISE. Thus its theatre is and continues to be the heart of the school. The existing balcony will be turned into a music room, and a new balcony will be built to encircle the theatre. The theatre will be available for educational purposes and major theatrical performances, both day and night. The beautiful wide stairway that runs between the entrance and the theatre will be restored. And the floors linked by this stairway will accommodate study areas and meeting points that double as social hangouts.

A natural supply of fresh air

The school will be equipped with a new climate control system to keep the air quality and temperature in the classrooms at agreeable levels. This system is based on the natural supply of oxygen via the façade and the mechanical remova. The energy-efficient system detects CO2and supplies fresh air on-demand.

The air supply grilles will be concealed behind the sunshades on the façade. The climate control system will run vertically through the building, its features cleverly concealed in wall cabinets. Consequently, the school will be free of visible piping, an absence that will contribute to the building’s visually calm aesthetic.

To further ensure an optimal indoor climate, the existing window frames on all the floors are to be replaced with new wooden frames with double-glazing. This also reduces energy consumption. To maintain the building’s historical appeal, the new façade’s features will conform to the original’s dimensions. Rectilinear sunshades will replace the roller blinds, creating a beautifully alternating patterned façade.

Project details


Location Piet Mondriaanstraat 140, Amsterdam
Total floor area 8.800m² -> 7.600m² education 1.200m² sport
Program Renovation Education Building
Start design March 2017
Start construction End of 2018
Completion May 2019


Client Esprit Scholen
Project architect Paul de Ruiter & Noud Paes
Project Leader Martijn van Gameren
Project team Sander Bakker, Gianna Bottema, Richard Buijs, Florina Nentu
Project Management HEVO
Advisor construction Pieters Bouwtechniek Amsterdam
Advisor Installations Klicktet
Advisor building physics DWA
Photography Sonia Arrepia

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