Amsterdam Liberal Arts & Sciences Academie (ALASCA)

ZENBER Architecten designs the interior for the innovative learning environment of Amsterdam Liberal Arts & Sciences Academy (ALASCA).


Amsterdam Liberal Arts & Sciences Academy (ALASCA), part of Esprit schools, is a unique and ambitious school for higher and advanced secondary education. The educational concept is innovative. University-like, the classes are modular and several courses come together in these thematic modules. Students are encouraged to make their own choices, to speed up, to broaden or deepen, so that they can develop their own talents and choose their own indiviual paths. This research-based educational approach has been translated by ZENBER Architects into a challenging and stimulating learning environment.


The existing educational building at Zeeburgereiland has a clear structure with an open auditorium at the entrance. The desire was to create  a multifunctional auditorium with study areas, space for debate and lunch facilities.The pronounced staircase leads to the upper floors. Each floor is divided into two study zones. Each study zone consists of classrooms around a central learning area.

“ALASCA’s sustainability ambition is felt throughout the building.”

“Existing wooden benches were re-used and combined with planters”

Green oasis central in the school – nature inclusive

When entering the new ALASCA, the green ‘gardens’ hanging from the high ceiling of the auditorium are the first thing to notice. They are made of recycled PET felt, combined with natural wool felt from WoOL Amsterdam. These baffles add color to the space, and enhance the acoustic experience as well. Together with a large floor field they form a green oasis in the new school.The main focus here is on learning, working together, discovering and relaxing. Mobile grandstand stairs and a podium give shape to the debate and presentation zone. Students can find their own favourite spot in a diversity of seating and lounge elements. Healthy and nutritious meals are prepared in the adjacent open kitchen.


The study areas at the storey-high facades have the appearance of a greenhouse. This zone is marked by a large tree in the study table. Existing wooden benches were re-used and combined with planters, marking private study areas between the greenery.

Internationally oriented education

The educational program is largely internationally oriented. Part of the lessons are offered in English. The wall-sized bookcase and wooden reading tables contribute to the international character. Graphics on the walls of the learning squares are dedicated to international inspirational scientists and philosophers.

Learning squares unique and recognizable by color

Each floor has its own open squares, a central base for learning and meeting. Each learning area has its own theme of colors that are helpful for orientation and recognizability within the school. Colored acoustic baffles made of recycled PET felt and rugs specially designed for ALASCA make the room acoustically pleasant, and guarantee peace and silence in this large open space.


The light and open learning squares provide a diversity of study areas, where students can collaborate or work individually and in concentration. Being able to choose the right study area is an important aspect of ALASCA’s educational vision.


The existing sea containers have been converted into pleasant meeting rooms where teachers and students can work together. Centrally located, they provide a natural view to the classrooms, teachers and fellow students.


Also the existing room dividers were re-used for circular purposes and became an obvious part of the new design. ZENBER Architects converted the room dividers into cabinets with writable and acoustic elements.

Team lounge for teachers

The place for teachers to meet is atmospheric and bright, with a wide tree table for lunch or work, and a lounge area with sofas and armchairs. It is a perfect place to relax or to have informal conversations.

Sustainable and circular – use what we have

ALASCA has embedded the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations in its education program. Students are trained as critical and involved citizens with awareness of the environment.


ALASCA’s sustainability ambition is felt throughout the building. Choosing an existing building, designed by AtelierPRO architects in 2016, fits this ambition. ZENBER architecten’s smart and sustainable design solutions together with their carefully selected or closed loop materials have ensured that this building is transformed fully to the wishes of ALASCA.


The wooden slatted wall in the auditorium is made from Amsterdams Stadshout: Trees from the city of Amsterdam that are grown and harvested in a sustainable and responsible way. The various species of trees form a pleasant sequence of colors and give a warm look and feel to the sturdy building.


The new customized furniture is made from panel material that is made from recycled material or from wood grown in ecological cultural forests. It speaks for itself that all custom made furniture is demountable assembled. Most of the furniture was taken over from the previous user or from other organizations thus getting a second life.


Client: Esprit Scholen
Location: Amsterdam
GFA: 7.090 m²
Completion: 2020

Project team ZENBER: Eric Wezenberg, Ingrid Heijne, Diederik Mulder
Building architect:  Atelier Pro
Building consultancy: ICS Adviseurs
Contractor:  Verwol

Interior finisher: Verwol
Lighting plan: ZENBER Architecten
Graphic design: Studio Sandra Broersen
Photography: ZENBER Architecten
Furniture: Vanerum