SHAPE International School Complex and Master Plan

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Mons, Belgium
U.S. Department of Defense Dependent Schools
342,300 SF
2017 Design Award of Honor, SARA National

The Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) is the headquarters of NATO’s Allied Command Operations located near Mons, Belgium. In 2009, the design team completed a master plan for the 21.5 acre SHAPE International School campus, which called for replacing all existing campus buildings with new, state-of-the-art facilities, including a new U.S. Elementary, Middle, and High School, and four new educational facilities for other NATO member nations. 

The new Elementary School, Middle School and two-story U.S. High School contain a mix of general purpose and specialty classrooms, including art, music, computer and science labs, a culinary arts room, and an information center. This unique international learning environment is made up of students from nearly 20 allied countries and in the design and master plan every effort was made to incorporate the spirit of the school’s commitment to fostering a Global Community.

Building Program

Campus Transformation

The SHAPE International School was established in Belgium in the late 1960s to provide educational opportunities for the children of military personnel from over twenty NATO member nations. The facilities, however, were hastily built and both physically and functionally obsolescent. Nearly four decades later, the NATO member nations embarked on an effort to develop a new campus that would support the school’s educational mission.

Master Plan: AFTER

After a series of Charrettes, the design team completed a master plan for the 21.5 acre campus. The plan called for the replacement of all existing campus buildings with new, state-of-the-art facilities organized around a large, unifying commons to reflect their commonality of purpose and spirit of community.

Regional Precedents: The Belgian Town Square

The design of the master plan was inspired by the public architectural culture of the region and the international spirit of the school whose philosophy is centered on the notion of the school as a Global Community. The Belgian Town Square and Thomas Jefferson’s Great Lawn at UVA are the organizing principals of the Campus. The U.S. schools anchor the North and South ends, while the International Schools cluster on the East and West sides. All of the facilities face the open, shared student commons.

The Global Community

American children make up only 35% of the SHAPE International School student body. The remainder are dependents of military members of other NATO countries, resulting in a uniquely international environment with more than eighteen nationalities represented and sixteen languages spoken.