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BDP appointed to design a ‘House In The Polder’ for Dutch education institution

BDP has been appointed to design a new school for Zuyderzee Lyceum in the Dutch town of Lemmer for VariO Education Group, and the municipality of De Fryske Marren. The building plan has been approved by the municipal executive and construction will start in the summer of 2023.


The Zuyderzee Lyceum is a public school with an education structure designed to nurture talent, develop skills and create passionate, knowledgeable young people. The school’s new 3000mbuilding is being developed as a green, sustainable, education environment within the green polder landscape surrounding Lemmer, situated in the north of the Netherlands and will provide space for up to 355 students.

The building will be delivered using a timber structure, designed to interweave with the natural landscape. The new “house in the polder” will become the most recognisable, building in the area, bringing new facilities for students, teachers and local people.


Alongside its partners, BDP is designing a modern, state of the art educational space, conceived as a healthy and sustainable school building that offers space for home-based education at VMBO, HAVO and VWO level, in a familiar environment.

The building will have two separate hearts - a social heart where the students can meet and a quiet heart around which the classrooms fold. To meet the school's need for educational spaces where learning can intertwine and large and small groups frequently alternate, the building will be conceived as a flexible facility, where classrooms, niche social spaces and larger learning plazas will be connected. This will provide a dynamic mix of theory, learning and practical training within a single building.


The design will be sympathetic to the black wooden barns that are scattered around the area, using a biobased facade of burnt wood that folds to form a silhouette around the roofs of a number of ‘houses’. Vertical fins of preserved coniferous wood will deliver a warm contrast to the dark silhouettes and the sun-exposed facades will naturally deflect sunlight to give the building rhythm and identity. The fins will also offer the students privacy and shelter and combine with optimal daylight conditions to create an unobstructed view of the polder.

PV panels on the south flanks of the roofs and a low-tech system for ventilation will provide a sophisticated building in which sustainability and circularity naturally strengthen education. Each internal area will have a direct link to one or more outdoor classrooms which will offer space for research, experiments and art workshops, strengthen the connection with the environment and actively involve the polder landscape in education.


On the north side of the building, an atrium staircase will overlook a green schoolyard and the adjacent sports fields. The staircase will be used as a meeting place for students and connect the learning plazas and mezzanines on the first floor with short walkable routes from the entrance. The auditorium will be directly connected to the schoolyard where the natural landscape of the polder will be used to form a place to relax on the waterfront and spaces for children to play sports.

The design will be tailored for the needs of those who will work there, not only responding to the school’s current way of teaching and learning, but also adding in flexibility to adapt to future changes in education. The design also leaves room for the students to give their own interpretation. For example, the students will design and make their own seating areas within the building. Vegetables will be grown in a dedicated vegetable garden which will be used in the teaching kitchens and a working group is already growing plants to be used the green schoolyard.

Kerstin Tresselt, associate architect at BDP, explains: “We pride ourselves on our ability to design innovative, sustainable buildings that fit within the Netherland’s biodiverse, rural landscapes, inspired by the waterways and countryside that surrounds our cities and towns. This project is a perfect example of our exploration of these concepts in an historic polder landscape and we can’t wait to deliver the new building using the ideas from the students and teachers. We are sure it will become a world-class, sustainable educational building that will be a home to many generations of future talents.”


Councillor for Education at the municipality of De Fryske Marren, Barbara Gardenier, said:

 “By joining forces we can now realise this beautiful, sustainable and future-proofed school building that fully supports the educational needs of the region. The design fits so well into our rural environment and we are continuing to explore ways to make the school as connected as possible local areas and nearby towns.


Dirk Speelman, chairman of the board of the VariO education group, added: “With a beautiful, light and new building, there is a bright future ahead for the Zuyderzee Lyceum!”


Miranda Hazelaar, location director Zuyderzee Lyceum Lemmer, concluded:“With a modern education centre close to home in a sustainable building, we can now confidently say that secondary education in Lemmer is ready for the future.”