Paul de Ruiter

Gymnasium American School of The Hague

A calling card for the American School of The Hague in the form of a new gymnasium

1527 Stijn Poelstra SP2018 Sporthal American School 8
1527 Stijn Poelstra SP2018 Sporthal American School 10
1527 Stijn Poelstra SP2018 Sporthal American School 11
1527 Stijn Poelstra SP2018 Sporthal American School 13
1527 Stijn Poelstra SP2018 Sporthal American School 3
1527 Stijn Poelstra SP2018 Sporthal American School 4
1527 Stijn Poelstra SP2018 Sporthal American School 5
1527 Stijn Poelstra SP2018 Sporthal American School 6
1527 Stijn Poelstra SP2018 Sporthal American School 7
1527 Stijn Poelstra SP2018 Sporthal American School 7 A
1 / 10

The American School of The Hague (ASH) was founded in the early fifties as a modestly sized international school by American embassy personnel for their children’s education. It has grown since then to become one of the most prestigious international schools in the country. Paul de Ruiter Architects redesigned the school’s gymnasium, in collaboration with Kraaijvanger Architects. The ingenious design manages to retain much of the striking exterior of the original building, which is visible from the A44, while simultaneously allowing for a complete renovation of its interior.

The gymnasium plays a central role in the school’s objectives

The school, which occupies an imposing building on the outskirts of Wassenaar, boasts a student body of about 1,200, spread across three divisions: Elementary School, Middle School and High School. In addition to its outstanding curriculum, ASH exposes its pupils to as wide a range of extracurricular activity as possible and encourages them to develop their talent in art, music, theatre and sports. Consequently, the gymnasium plays a central role in the school’s objectives. The venue plays host to sports competitions and special events — such as the school’s annual graduation ceremony — and of course to daily physical education classes.

The school’s desire to host international sports competitions as well as its wish to continue offering its physical education classes to its growing student body resulted in a need for additional space. A difficult wish to fulfil, given that the space occupied by the existing gymnasium offered relatively little room for expansion. However, by taking advantage of the land behind the school’s iconic blue wave-like wall, we were able to create the desired additional space, expanding the existing gymnasium (which measured 1,985 m2) by 863 m2, taking it to 2,814 m2, and fitting in an extra indoor court, a weight room and a multifunctional room.

An additional, glass-enclosed floor was built above the stands

In view of the size of the audiences attending the school’s competitions and other public events, the school also needed the stands to be permanent. In response, and in light of the fact that people engaged in sports, or in any other performance-related activity, tend to concentrate and perform better when undistracted, we determined our positioning of the stands alongside the courts strategically. We replaced the old makeshift stands with permanent ones constructed from birch and designed to form the gymnasium wall in a manner that provides optimal sound insulation. The result: the pupils can focus better on what they’re doing while spectators can enjoy the action from the perfect vantage point.

With a view to raising the level of professionalism in the weight room and expanding the space itself, we built an additional, glass-enclosed floor above the stands. Besides the weight room, this new floor also accommodates a multifunctional room that lends itself to a variety of sports. The weight room’s partition wall is also entirely of glass, creating a clear and unbroken visual connection with the courts below and the stands.

To minimize any impingement on the existing design, we extended the red structure that sits atop the first floor roof. And thanks to our location of the extensions and renovation behind the blue wall and the three red trusses, the changes we made are scarcely visible from the outside.

The new permanent stands constructed from birch provide an optimal sound insulation

To create visual continuity between the old and the new, we revamped the gymnasium’s existing walls. We replaced the old fixtures with new ones capable of serving the large audiences that attend the school’s international events and parties. We integrated these fixtures into the Frenger ceiling: for the control of data, music, lighting (dedicated per court) and the fire safety system. The three courts are separable by soundproof walls, allowing simultaneous physical education classes to be given in each without distraction from the others. Thanks to this new approach to fixture installation, the gymnasium meets all the standards expected of venues built for sports and other events.

Not only is the gymnasium now the beating heart of the ASH community, but it has also become the American School of The Hague’s new calling card.

Project details


Name and location Gymnasium American School of The Hague, Wassenaar
Address Rijksstraatweg 200
Total floor area 2.900 m2
Program Gymnasium
Start design May 2016
Start construction August 2017
Completion August 2018
Contract type Extension


Client American School of The Hague
Design Paul de Ruiter Architects, Kraaijvanger Architects
Project architect Annemiek Bleumink, Hans Goverde
Project team Annemiek Bleumink, Mark Homminga
Construction consultant IMd Ingenieursbureau
Installations consultant J. van Toorenburg
Structural Engineering Consultant Nelissen Ingenieursbureau
Constructor Blanksma Bouw
Photography Stijn Poelstra

Share this page