Category Archives: primary

High School Extension with “Crinkled Wall”

High School Extension with "Crinkled Wall" in Kufstein, Austria, by Johannes Wiesflecker and Karl-Heinz Klopf, 2012

Photograph by David Schreyer

Paper is a suitable metaphor for knowledge, considering how ideas have been expressed and shared via books and other paper media for centuries. Even as digital technologies are supplanting books, newspaper, and magazines as the preferred means of sharing information, paper still plays a large role in learning. We write on paper, we draw on paper, we still read things on paper, and we throw paper away. In this sense, especially the latter case, it is appropriate that artist Karl-Heinz Klopf has contributed a "Crinkled Wall" (commissioned by BIG Art) to the High School Extension in Kufstein designed by Johannes Wiesflecker.

Photograph by David Schreyer

Photograph by David Schreyer

The location of the Crinkled Wall is strategic. It sits perpendicular and adjacent to the street, giving the school a distinctive public face; it faces an open space to ensure it is visible from a distance; and it faces south, shielding some of the classrooms from direct sunlight (they gain sunlight from the sides, one of which is angled in the tapered plan to capture some direct light from the south).

Photograph by David Schreyer

Photograph by David Schreyer

While the crinkled wall resembles a crumpled piece of paper, it has to be built from something more substantial. Concrete is the resulting material, and views from the side (the two photos above) make it appear like the surface is thick, as it wraps the corner. But as the photo below attests, the wall is relatively thin, hung a few feet in front of the classroom windows.

Photograph by David Schreyer

Photograph by David Schreyer

The thinness of the concrete panels accentuates the allusion to paper, a material whose form is mirrored from one side to the other when crumpled, though from the inside the materiality of the Crinkled Wall—its texture, its formwork holes—comes to the fore. The same happens on the exterior when it rains, turning something abstract into something dripping with its reality. This is important, because Klopf opted to sculpt something tactile rather than something made of bits and bytes. An LED facade can also express knowledge, learning, and information. By selecting paper, Klopf makes us aware of the analog-digital shift underway (computers may have a "recycling bin" with "wastepaper" in them, but they aren't the same as the real thing), helping us to realize it is not absolute or simple.

Photograph by David Schreyer

Site Plan

Floor Plan

Building Section

Ama’r Children’s Culture House

Ama'r Children's Culture House in Copenhagen, Denmark, by Dorte Mandrup Architects, 2013

The following text and images are courtesy of Dorte Mandrup Architects.

Photograph by Jens Lindhe

The Ama'r Children’s Culture House is an innovative project developed with the fanciful and fun input of children. The Culture House is a Danish Villa Villekulla that offers a unique range of spatial experiences and cultural activities.

Photograph by Torben Eskerod

Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter considered the children’s countless ideas and wishes throughout the design process. They have created a house with many intriguing angles, caves and stairs that pro- vide a wealth of opportunities for creative expression and exploration. Just like the kids wished for! A dream come true! -Nild Regout, Head of Ama’r Children’s Culture House

Photograph by Jens Lindhe

The Children’s Culture House mediates the varying scales of adjacent buildings through extruding and cutting their forms. The joint of the building, where the extended lines of the existing buildings meet, is lowered to allow maximum sunlight to reach the neighboring courtyard. The expression of the Children’s Culture House is surprising and imaginative: the roof and facades are treated the same, and the House does not have a “start” and “end” as ordinary houses do.

Photograph by Torben Eskerod

The building is organized as a mountain. All interior spaces are visually connected, and are bound together by dynamic circulation. The house offers flexible spaces and customized furniture, which have been proven to enhance children’s creativity and active participation. The spaces provide opportunities for varied use and accommodate age groups from 0-18 years with changing needs.

Photograph by Torben Eskerod

The construction details of The Ama’r Children’s Culture House have been designed in collaboration with Nøhr and Sigsgaard Arkitekter.

Photograph by Torben Eskerod

Ground floor plan courtesy of Dorte Mandrup Architects

First floor plan courtesy of Dorte Mandrup Architects

Second floor plan courtesy of Dorte Mandrup Architects

Building section A-A courtesy of Dorte Mandrup Architects

Drawing courtesy of Dorte Mandrup Architects

Niemenranta Elementary School

Niemenranta Elementary School in Oulunsalo, Finland, by alt Architects + Architecture Office Karsikas, 2012.

The following text and images are courtesy alt Architects. Photographs are by Ville-Pekka Ikola and Kalle Vahtera.

Niemenranta Elementary School is located in a new residential area in Oulunsalo Municipality, surrounded by detached houses and other small-scale houses. Most of the area is still in construction phase. The school center is the only public building in the area, thus creating the obvious center point for it. The school center has three parts: the elementary school for 300 students (the project at hand), the kindergarten, and the junior high school. The first two are complete, but the the junior high school has delayed. Although the school is mainly used for education, it also functions as a common space (sports, hobbies, clubs, and gatherings) for the community.

The building form is a synthesis of the functional and urban goals. The free formed brick wall faces the public areas, while rectangular wooden facades define the school yards. The main element of the exterior—the curvy brick wall—is a synthesis of different ideas as well. On one hand it creates a strong, public and somewhat urban feel to the building; on the other hand it is a reference to nature. Immediate surroundings of the building are non-urban, which turns step by step into forest, shoreline and finally the Gulf of Bothnia. Rectangular, small-scaled and intimate school yards are directed to the south for sunlight, and the building shields itself from the cold northern breezes, thus creating a good micro-climate. Long and expressively shaped eaves provide protection from the harsh climate for both wooden facades and the children.

The materials and forms of the building obviously reference Alvar Aalto's brick architecture, but also the late-70s and early-80s Finnish, postmodern regionalism movement, the "Oulu School", which had a strong impact in the Northern Finland's (and especially Oulunsalo-area's) public buildings. The main goal of Oulu School was to abandon the universal and cold modernism and replace it with regionalist, humane architecture that would be in harmony with the landscape, climate and cultural adaptations of the area. Wood and brick were the prominent materials used by Oulu School.  Even though Niemenranta School Center is far from the sometimes over-the-board romanticism and historicism of Oulu School architecture, the mental side of the design evolves from the same root of ideas.

The spatial highlight of the school is the main entrance hall and the public spaces linked to it. The free-formed wooden ceiling emphasizes and gives a strong character to these public spaces. Other parts of the building are small-scaled and intimate. Bright colors are implemented in the classrooms and corridors in order to bring playfulness and easy orientation to the building. The design strives to be bold and modest at the same time: considering the budget and the responsible use of public money, yet creating a distinguished public building for the community to feel proud of.

Integrated School Complex

Integrated Elementary-Middle School Complex in Rome, Italy by Herman Hertzberger and Marco Scarpinato, 2012.

Writing about this recently completed school in the Romanina section of Rome is not an easy feat, given that Herman Hertzberger's buildings beg to be visited to be understood (more than many other buildings) and are designed to be "completed" by the users (as described in an article at Domus by Massimo Faiferri). Therefore the task runs the risk of being an architectonic exercise, mentioning those traits but focusing on plans, sections, and materials, and speculating on the success of the project once the teachers and students figure out how to use the various spaces, indoor and out.

For the duration of the project Hertzberger worked with Marco Scarpinato (AutonomeForme) as Hertzberger + Scarpinato. The duo developed a plan with a repeated courtyard structure that is reminiscent of Hertzbberger's "cellular" designs, in which rooms of various porosity are oriented to shared spaces. Classrooms, a gymnasium, auditorium, and cafeteria serving 500 students are spread across the large site in a complex circulation network that seems to blur the differences between inside and outside.

The spatial component of education that Hertzberger proposes in the Romanina school reveals an ethical stance that — even in the light of widespread social behavior across Italy — rarely finds suitable models that respond adequately to the problems of education in our times. -Massimo Faiferri, at Domus

As the photos here attest, the architecture of the school and its potential is in the steps. Open steps that serve as amphitheaters are a common device in Hertzberger's schools, be it a primary or a secondary school; see the De Salamander extended school (2007), Dalton College Leerpark (2008), and De Spil extended school (2008) on his website for examples. Yet here the steps are in abundance, creating places for assembly but also serving to remove the students from the neighborhood by bringing them below grade. Moving down the steps they enter the world of the school.

Further, interior spaces don't appear to be separated by walls but by more steps, all apparently rendered in wood, a contrast to the concrete and brick that otherwise prevails. It is possible that some of these spaces may receive partitions for acoustics or other reasons, but of course that would be in keeping with the framework that Herzberger and Scarpinato have setup.

Coincidentally, this week I'm reviewing a book that looks at a project decades after its completion, the antithesis of the photos documenting this school. Yet the Hertzberger + Scarpinato creation would be a perfect subject for a similar book. In a decade, or even less, the spaces and places of the school should fill themselves out in terms of how they're used and how successful they are. Seeing the building in the future will be so much more valuable than seeing it today.

Sølvgade School

Sølvgade School in Copenhagen, Denmark by C. F. Møller Architects, 2012.

Like a lot of architecture built in European cities, the six-story addition to Copenhagen's Sølvgade School -- the oldest school in Denmark -- must contend with history while dealing with contemporary concerns. C. F. Møller Architects had to address the mid-19th-century architecture of the school but also the nearby Nyboder, the colorful naval barracks of King Christian IV. The architects describe their extension as one "true to the surroundings" but with "a modernistic twist."

The photo at top illustrates how the architects balanced the historical and the contemporary through the scale, massing, and facades of the 2,400-sm (25,800-sf) building (the architects are also responsible for the renovation of the existing school, which the addition more than doubles). While the addition does not physically touch the original school, which occupies the middle of the block, the new corner building responds to the street wall and continues the cornice and roof line of its neighbor on the west. Yet, turning the corner, the solid facade gives way to an all-glass elevation that also expresses the contextual but somewhat odd slope of the top floor.

The windows punched into the whitewashed walls -- a treatment that covers three of the facades, including the side facing the old building (photo at left) -- certainly stand out from the historical context, but it is the colorful east elevation that provides the modernstic twist and gives the school a strong contemporary image. The colors work in a couple ways: They cover the deep recesses in the facade perpendicular to the glass and extend to the inner walls of the double-skin facade. This results in a rainbow-like jigsaw of different-sized rectangles across the elevation, which shifts from glassy during the day to punched-windows in the evening, the latter stemming from the double-facade's inner layer.

Color is not limited to the facades. It is also found in the various circulation spaces, which vary their surfaces like the facade's larger shadowboxes. More than giving the Sølvgade School a contemporary means of branding, the colors create a lively environment for the students. Studies have show how color plays an important role in influencing mood, attention, and other psychological factors. Today, with so many distractions available for tech-minded students, it's important for educational environments to elevate the spirit of students and work toward focusing their attention on the learning at hand.

Family Crèche

Family Crèche in Drulingen, France by Fluor Architects, 2010.

Drulingen is a small town in the Alsace region of northeastern France. One of the main routes into town from the nearby motorway is Rue de Phalsbourg, on which this "Family Crèche" (child care center, day care center, kitchen) designed by Strasbourg's Fluor Architects sits. Its site determines much of the building's design, not only since it is at an entrance to the town, but also because it sits adjacent to an old police station. The design melds these three realms: road, edge (of town), and existing building.

The most evident means of relating to the site is found in the wood lattice that covers the long elevation facing the road. Fluor Architects -- the duo of Hervé Schneider and Guillaume Avenard -- treat the lattice with a regular, rectangular grid of timber sticks at 45-degrees to horizontal. Variation is found in the infill -- smaller members at different angles and spacings -- as well as the occasional openings and the way the roofline seems to blindly cut the lattice. The character of the openings is most pronounced at the entrance, where the cut curves up on the sides to the double-door header.

The facility is seen as a cocoon sheltering the most fragile, ... where the child starts his life in society. -Fluor Architects

The relationship to both the edge condition and the existing building on the site is found in the massing of the building, a two-story structure that steps down from the police station to the tip of the triangular plot. Combined with the lattice elevation, this gives the impression that the building erodes or disintegrates towards the south and east. Yet as the photo at left attests, this stepping also creates a series of terraces and brings daylight into second-floor spaces deep within the triangular plan. The stepping responds as much to the sunlight as the shape of the site and other factors.

While the wood lattice veils any indication of what is happening inside -- strengthening the architect's assertion that the building protects its occupants -- the rooftop photo at right gives a better indication of the character of the interiors. Splashes of color are found in both the skylights and the variously sized window openings. A look inside reveals portals lined with colors, enlivening otherwise white spaces for the children. Corridors add even more color, to the point of supersaturation. The result is a building that creatively responds to its site while creating a light-filled interior playfully in tune with the children using them.

Childcare Center Maria Enzersdorf

Childcare Center in Maria Enzersdorf, Austria by MAGK and illiz architektur, 2011.

A small school in the town of Maria Enzersdorf, south of Vienna, required expansion in line with the community's growing population. A 2008 competition called for an addition with eight primary-school classrooms, after-school care facilities, and a kindergarten with kitchen. The association of MAGK and illiz architektur won the competition with a plan that uses L-shaped "which are interlaced in such a manner that different places and free spaces to play in and for learning are formed in the interstices." Each "L" relates to one part of the program, although the whole building is interconnected through corridors and to a certain degree the outdoor spaces.

This means of planning creates a variety of outdoor spaces: an enclosed courtyard, a courtyard open on one side, a space overlooking but setback from the street, and an space between the addition and the existing school. The last two are highlighted by orange-red paving that describes diagonal paths across the space; the rocky islands in between are used for play and for trees. The enclosed courtyard is generous and is used for the kindergarten; it is located at the farthest remove from the existing school. Finally the narrow, semi-enclosed courtyard is accessible from both the new primary school classrooms and the after-school rooms.

The differing design of doors, cloakrooms and wall panels in an individual range of color for each area of activity facilitates finding the way and increases their identification, particularly for the children. -MAGK and illiz architektur

The quote above makes it clear that color is used strategically in the school's design, but it is not limited to the interior. The western facade of the kindergarten (top photo) incorporates colored glass panels into a white, wire-mesh grid, creating a Mondrian-esque screen that filters the afternoon sunlight and makes for some interesting outdoor space on the front of the building. Color is used selectively in other parts of the facades, such as the kindergarten courtyard (left), where operable panels in the expansive glass walls are made from metal painted bright colors. These patches of color alternate with window cubbies that punctuate the different corridors.

Of course, using color as a means of wayfinding and identification points to a neutral background. Such is the case in the Childcare Center Maria Enzersdorf, as the exterior elevations and most of the interior surfaces are otherwise white. Facades sans color use window size and placement to add interest, such as pixelating small windows between window boxes that double as seats. There is an evident flavor in each L-shaped section, owing to the articulation of windows, the placement of color, and the various interior finishes. Nevertheless the general strategy ties the whole together into a bright and refreshing environment for some lucky children.


Kindergarten (KIGA) in Neufeld an der Leitha, Austria by SOLID architecture, 2010.

The influence of the Crow Island School in Winnetka, Illinois, designed by Perkins + Will (then Perkins, Wheeler, and Will) with Eliel and Eero Saarinen in 1940, is undeniable. Its floor plan ingeniously utilized L-shaped classrooms to create small outdoor spaces adjacent to each classroom. (The classroom itself is rectangular, appended by a workroom to form the L.) Additionally the corridors are open and light, punctuated by circular skylights, but it is the way the classrooms are linked to outdoor spaces scaled to the students, especially kindergarteners, that has been passed down across time and space.

Crow Island School may not be a direct precedent for SOLID architecture's design of a kindergarten (KIGA) in the small Austrian town of Neufeld an der Leitha, but the articulation of the plan to help define outdoor zones, as well as the use of skylights to bring natural light into the network of corridors and other spaces, is clear. A primarily solid entry elevation (photos right and left) faces north, but the southern side of the rectangular building (top photo), away from traffic, is glassy and open, shaded by a large louvered overhang over the shared outdoor spaces.

Glass walls, roof lights and the way the garden interlocks with the kindergarten create spaces flooded with daylight, lively lighting conditions and different moods of color. -SOLID architecture

The photo at left shows one of the access points to these southern spaces. The double-doors are a subtle shift from the Crow Island plan, which provides direct access from classroom to outside; KIGA, on the other hand, uses the circulation to separate the classrooms so they are distinct and as a means of moving the children along particular paths, important for five-year-olds. These corridors also mean that the whole classroom is available as a surface for play; an area in front of a doorway at the exterior wall is therefore not required to be kept free for access. Additionally, light wood finishes for the casework in these and other rooms, as well as white walls and ceilings and off-white flooring, create a very bright interior that is a background for the kids' creations and they toys they play with.

Ultimately what makes KIGA distinctive is the louvered roof that caps the play area on the southern side of the building (photo at right). This generous overhang is down-turned at the end with the same wood louvers, which helps to further shade the glass-walled classrooms. These louvers also help tie together the various small outdoor spaces that are created by jogging the classrooms in plan. This knitting of the spaces also happens via the wood planks below, but the strong overhead expression fittingly provides a sense of enclosure for the kids. Kudos to SOLID architecture for a design that responds to their small "clients" in all aspects of the building.

“Free Play” Kindergarten

"Free Play" Kindergarten in Guntramsdorf, Austria by g.o.y.a., 2010.

The following text and images (photos are by Kurt Hörbst) are courtesy g.o.y.a. (group of young architects).

The kindergarten is located in a grove of striking chestnut trees. Its rustic design celebrates a sense of open space and connection with its lovely environment. To meet the various needs of the children, the building is organized as a series of structures, each connected visually with the trees. Classrooms are organized around a hallway which gives onto a foyer affording floor-to-ceiling panoramic views of the encircling chestnuts.

Both classrooms and activity area branch out from the foyer which, clad in larchwood, maintains continuity with the exterior of the building.  The multi-purpose foyer is accessible to the classrooms and the gymnasium. This enables classes to be conducted discretely so that different kinds of activity can take place simultaneously. For special occasions, however, the flexible dividing wall between the gymnasium and the foyer can be opened to provide a large events room.

The kindergarten’s interior harmonizes with the environment by being clad in larchwood. Load bearing walls of spruce cross-laminated timber are faced with triple layered spruce panels finished with a bright white varnish. Each classroom has a large panoramic window looking onto the chestnut trees. Windows are set at child’s-eye level with ample lower sills doubling as benches. Unlike these airy classrooms, the gallery, lit by a skylight through which the tops of trees can be glimpsed, offers a more intimate experience.

If the upright trunks of the old trees suggest strength and perseverance, these characteristics are expressed in the language of the building with its preponderance of wood.  Footbridges and terraces link the classrooms, imparting a sense of well-being. Three themed play areas cluster about a garden: Balance and Equilibrium, Calm and Nature, and Sand and Water. Conceived as a low-energy building, the school is heated in winter, cooled in summer, by a ground water heat pump feeding under floor piping. CO2 concentration controlled ventilation ensures optimum air quality.

Panther Lake Elementary School

Panther Lake Elementary School in Federal Way, Washington by DLR Group, 2009.

DLR Group was responsible for two recent elementary schools in Federal Way near Seattle: Panther Lake, adjacent to the a library by Mithun, and Valhalla, at the northern edge of the community. Federal Way's school district asked for the architects to focus on their guiding principles: Learning, Safety, Relationships, and Flexibility. The examined by "re-examin[ing] existing assumptions about educational needs...recasting the typical linear definition as a series of interrelated events... [to] suggest spatial interrelationships." Both were completed in August 2009, and each are similar in size and cost, but Panther Lake is featured here.

The architects approached the programming of the school's spaces by looking at the population throughout the day and in terms of basic learning activities, rather than in terms of rooms defined by specific curriculum. At Panther Lake this led to a plan diagram that distributed the classrooms across "rows of formal learning spaces" that intersect with the diagonal circulation (the "connector") to create special areas: group learning, display cave, library, story corner, outdoor learning, lunchroom, performance, etc. The rows of classrooms

"Interior walls are designed for further spatial flexibilities, enabling for easy daily change, light construction changes in 5 years, and more significant construction changes in 20 years." -DLR Group

This plan drives the outgoing formal nature of the school. Each row is as small or large as it needs to be, giving the perimeter a varied in-and-out that creates small patios. Visibility across these outdoor spaces also provides security and experiential interest. As well the exterior is activated by splashes of color that coincide with the special spaces along the diagonal transect. Translucent lanterns alternate with the different colors to create a silhouetted landscape that echoes the surrounding landscape but is wholly artificial in its manipulation of boxy volumes.

Inside the finishes are minimal and border on the industrial with concrete floors, exposed steel structure, and exposed ductwork. This effect is softened by the wood beams that can be found throughout the fairly open spaces. The exterior colors also find their way inside, mainly through their visibility through the windows, something afforded by the finger-like plan. The lanterns ensure that natural light bathes the interior, an important consideration in a location where gray days are common.