The iconic Gymnasium Beekvliet in Sint-Michielsgestel, Netherlands, has undergone an exquisite renovation led by the talented designers at MVRDV.

Marrying rich history with modern design, the school now features a striking sky-blue auditorium and captivating façade artwork by the renowned Canadian artist, Ian Kirkpatrick. This transformation not only enhances the school’s architectural beauty but also reflects the intricate tapestry of its past and the visions for its future.

About Gymnasium Beekvliet

Gymnasium Beekvliet’s Striking Transformation

Initially, the famed Gymnasium Beekvliet in Sint-Michielsgestel underwent a notable renovation. Now, pupils and teachers move more logically throughout the school. Moreover, a radiant sky-blue auditorium stands as the school’s centerpiece. On the outside, artist Ian Kirkpatrick adorned the façade extension with panoramic artistry. Impressively, his murals seamlessly weave past pupils’ stories, bystanders, and board members into future visions.

A Historical Beacon in Sint-Michielsgestel

Historically, the Gymnasium Beekvliet boasts a storied past. Originally a priests’ seminary, it later became an internment camp for political activists during World War II. Notably, this includes post-war Prime Minister “Wim” Schermerhorn. By the 1970s, the school then shifted to a modern grammar school across the street. Subsequently, in 2016, MVRDV and Van Boven Architecten clinched the renovation bid.

Fusing Sustainability with Contemporary Design

In terms of design, the redesign aimed to modernize the school while boosting its sustainability. Additionally, the goal also included expanding the area for arts, culture, and standard school activities. Primarily, the renovation revitalized the existing infrastructure. As a result, this fostered a dynamic learning environment for students and spaces for interaction. Furthermore, the building’s front now showcases a new auditorium. By reimagining the prior roof design, the school’s circulation follows a single, fluid motion. Interestingly, this design choice nods to the school’s motto, “Beekvliet flows.” Inside, this revamped section also features an expansive auditorium, fitted with a tribune, kitchen, and adaptable stage. Notably, the primary entrance remains unchanged, except for its position under the new arched roof.

A Tapestry of Memories and Legacy

For Winy Maas, “Renovating your childhood school is a profound honor,” remarks MVRDV’s founding partner. Along with Theobert and Gijs, he pondered how the school’s transformation could echo both past and present. To this end, Ian’s murals significantly complement this vision. These paintings, in essence, capture the memories of the community, reflecting Sint-Michielsgestel’s spirit. At the heart, a unique ‘compass’ in the entrance ceiling pinpoints local story origins.

In the final phase, in collaboration with the esteemed Canadian artist, Ian Kirkpatrick, the façade showcases captivating artwork. This tableau mirrors experiences of present and past students, educators, and administrators. Additionally, it symbolizes the school’s 200-year legacy and its global ties. These iconic depictions not only modernize the building but also root it in its local milieu. Lastly, a computer script determined each illustration’s façade position, mapping them back to their geographic origins.

Photography by Daria Scagliola


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