We spend a long time at school. There can be as much as thirteen years between the first day at primary school and graduation and many pupils spend this time behind boring facades in identikit buildings. How much nicer it would be if they could learn in a feel-good environment.
Which is why Almut Ernst, architect and partner at Grüntuch Ernst Architekten BDA believes that: “A school is more than a series of rooms to teach in. It’s an important part of the student’s living environment and marks on their understanding of their environment, both built and natural, through a variety of experiences.”
Fnatural stone plinths and a green light permeable glass facade
This understanding is reflected in the fabric of a primary school in Berlin-Lichtenrade. Here Ernst and his team designed a new building, which houses a canteen and ten classrooms. References to Bruno H. Bürgel, the amateur astronomer, from whom the school takes its name, can be found on the external cladding. The coloured aluminium sheets are perforated, the various large holes representing the planetary system and, inside, there are large, circular ceiling lights.
The astronomy theme crops up again in the foyer in the form of a back-lit art installation by Folke Hanfeld. Generally speaking, the distinctive features of the building are airy openness, a plethora of glass, the structured use of colour and geometric clarity. According to head teacher Ingrid Lienke: “The building is attractive, beautiful and unusual. Skylights create a light, inviting environment, which is what a school building should be.”
The Aula: steps and multifunctional use facilitate visual separation.
The Episcopal Mariengynasium grammar school for girls in Werden, a suburb of Essen, is housed in a simple cube of a building. From an architectural perspective, the new building had to blend into the overall urban development in a sensitive way. It also contains a basilica. The colours specified were sandstone and copper green.
This was realized on the new building in the form of natural stone plinths and a green, light permeable glass façade on the floors above. According to Günter Helten of Hahn Helten + Assoziierte Architekten GmbH: “Sustainability and robustness are important for school projects in general, so one of the materials used was exposed concrete.”
This contrasts with the natural wood floors, used in special rooms such as the library and quiet zone. On the upper floors the girls walk on friendly yellow linoleum. Clean lines run through the whole building, which is light, airy and even looks rather cool. The team of architects from Aachen won the 2008 State of North Rhine-Westphalia prize for school construction for this project. But at both these schools, lessons are 45-minutes long.
Photos 1, 2 and 3: Architekturbüro Hahn
Helten + Assoziierte Architekten GmbH,
fotograf: Jörg Hempel