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Poetic Education

The new interiors of the Panta Rhei school in Amstelveen designed by i29 Interior Architects are literally covered in poems that express themes of adolescence such as friendship, insecurity and dreams.

By Jeanne Tan / 04-06-2009

‘Gossip about me, but don’t tell them the truth
Make them believe something bigger’

When the specially commissioned poems were being 'written' onto the floors and furniture of the Panta Rhei school during the final stages of the construction phase, everyone wanted to know what they were - from the builders to the cleaning ladies. And they all had their own opinion about them.

The poems are the feature of the interior of Panta Rhei in Amstelveen, a secondary high school with a technical focus, for children aged 12-18. The project was a collaboration between interior architects i29, Snelder Architects and poet ErikJan Harmens. Taking inspiration from the name of the school meaning ‘everything flows’ or ‘everything in motion’ the concept of the design gives a sense of freedom to the users through flexibility of function and interpretation.

Thinking outside the classroom walls, the feature poems applied to the linoleum floors and the furniture are intended as unguarded moments of learning and reflection: inspiration can happen often when you're not even thinking about it. Poet Erikjan Harmens, who was commissioned by i29, worked with the students to identify certain themes, many relating to adolescence - friendship, insecurity, the future. The poems were fashioned into black 'carpets of text' which flow into each other forming intriguing graphic patterns. Grouped together, the personal texts form a dynamic tension with the space around it. The openness of the texts leave room for their own interpretation.

The furniture arrangement was carefully 'composed' with custom-made and standard elements. According to the designers, "We think in structures and rhythms and not in taste or style. You can look at it as music which deals with harmony and contrast. One tone is not unconnected to the next and silence is essential." To cater for both individual and group situations, angular furniture can be configured in a multitude of ways depending on the size of the arrangement needed. The choice of furniture is strong and robust, featuring heavily the Grcic chair (Magis) which appropriate to the focus of the school, suggests beauty in its technical innovation.

Photography: Jeroen Musch

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