A Dutch Gymnasium Is Now a Spacious Home For a Family That Loves to Dance

A Dutch Gymnasium Is Now a Spacious Home For a Family That Loves to Dance

By Melissa Dalton
Once part of a school complex, this converted gym in Rotterdam even features a flexible stage.

Abandoned buildings have proved fertile ground for architects Jenny Eklund and Dominique ter Beek, who run the Rotterdam–based practice Eklund Terbeek Architecten. 

In 2013, they oversaw the adaptive reuse of a traditional barn as a private vacation home. In 2017, they converted a 12-classroom schoolhouse into six apartment units for a co-housing community. For their latest project completed this year, the duo put the finishing touches on the Gym Loft— a standard-issue school gymnasium in Rotterdam Noord that has now been transformed into an airy loft for a family that loves to dance. 


Before: the existing building is a ground-floor gymnasium with an adjacent hallway and storage area, all of which was once part of an early-20th century school complex that is now being developed into individual homes.

The firm preserved the gymnasium’s only striking architectural feature: a set of "monumental arched windows."

Regarding the aesthetics, "the family wanted a calm and minimalist atmosphere where the experience of space, light, and movement provided the key qualities," says Eklund and ter Beek. "The client is a creative family of four who are active in dance and theater; thus providing space for movement (and maybe an occasional performance) was important."


The high ceilings in the original gymnasium enabled the architects to introduce a mezzanine floor into the volume to foster privacy for the bedrooms. The finished home is 2,475 square feet.

The gymnasium’s original ceiling clocked in at over 5.5 meters tall (or 18 feet), so the architects used the height to insert a mezzanine level. Doing so allowed them to put a private master suite upstairs and cluster the children’s quarters—including two bedrooms and a shared walk-through playroom and bathroom—below.

A view of the kitchen and sitting room beyond. A balcony at the mezzanine level defines the space below it and subtly differentiates the kitchen from the main open area. The extensive central island is wrapped in Carrara marble, its gray striations syncing with the floors, which are light gray cast polyurethane.

"The gym hall…provided us with a challenge regarding light and privacy," explains the firm. "Three sides of the building are facing the public domain, and due to the preservation of a large existing mural on the side facade, the possibilities for adding windows were limited." 

The demolition of a 1970s extension gave them room to insert new openings where the kitchen and a small sitting room are now located. Then they placed an open living area underneath the original arched windows, ensuring that it, and the connected dining room and kitchen, are flooded with natural light.

A multi-use podium runs the length of the wall under the windows and facilitates impromptu performances for the creative family that lives here. 

"The podium, which brings you on eye-level with the monumental arched windows, functions both as a lounge place, a stage, a huge cupboard, and a very long working desk," says Eklund and ter Beek.

"The exceptional dimensions of the space required a few large gestures," says the firm, including the podium and a dramatic floating staircase. The original ceiling beams were also exaggerated in size to fit the scale of the building. 

With such a restrained material and color palette, the architects emphasize how these grand gestures—the beams, podium, balcony over the kitchen, and kitchen island—"form a dynamic composition of horizontal elements that tie the different parts of the home together," almost like a rhythmic refrain.   

The staircase’s design was kept minimal, with floating treads made of oiled oak.

"My favorite aspect of this home is its sense of space and how it encourages movement," says Eklund. "Its atmosphere is simultaneously dynamic and calm."

The view from the mezzanine to the main floor. Sound-absorbing plasterboards on the ceiling modulate the acoustics in the home. "I also like how we used the sound-absorbing ceiling in this project," says Elklund. "Next to being very functional for such a space, it adds texture and rhythm in a subtle way."

Oiled oak floors in the master suite provide continuity with the joinery downstairs.

The main bathroom is clad in travertine and maintains the understated color palette found throughout the home.

The door opening to the left leads to the children’s bedrooms. A second staircase was tucked behind the kitchen storage and connects those bedrooms to the mezzanine level and the parents’ master suite upstairs.

The ceilings in the children’s rooms are partially double-height.

A hidden door in the oiled oak wall panels also leads to the children’s quarters.

Gym Loft floor plan

Related Reading: A 20th-Century Dutch Schoolhouse Now Holds a Series of Airy Lofts

Project Credits:

Architecture: Eklund Terbeek Architecten

Builder: BDS

Structural Engineer: IMd

Interior Design: Eklund Terbeek Architecten


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