Research & Education

Competition, new secondary school building in Isengrind, Zurich

Methods of learning and teaching have always continually evolved and so too school buildings and their functionality. The design of the new secondary school building in the Zurich district of Unteraffoltern is systematically geared towards shaping this change. It aims to enable modern teaching – taking account of changes in the general environment – to foster the integration of children from the surrounding area and to provide a welcoming facility for the district’s local community.

The local area is made up of structuralistic developments typical of the 1960s and 1970s, with open green spaces lying in-between. With its flat, four-story design, the new building blends into this setting well. Based on the surrounding buildings, the new development lies on a north-south axis and features a space-defining recessed facade. The wooden facade creates a contrast with the single-color and hard materials of the surrounding buildings and highlights the importance of the public school building at the center of the district. The prefabricated timber modules create a fine interplay between light and shadow, underlining the lightness of the building’s pavilion architecture.

The new building has three entrances which are marked out by the protruding classrooms above, making them easy to find. Their arrangement provides direct access to the school building from all directions for children from neighboring areas.

The ground floor is transparent, inviting and emphasizes the sense of openness to the district. The various communal areas, such as the restaurant and recreation rooms, are accessed via a walkway. A light-filled atrium is the main access area which takes students to the classrooms above via two spiral staircases. Arranged around it are landscaped atria which mark the entrances to the student clusters and flood the upper floors with daylight.

The support structure and the simple but innovative spatial structure of the classrooms mean the room layout can be flexibly adapted. The areas in front of the classrooms are designed for use as learning environments for extended teaching. The library – a place of peace and quiet to allow concentration with views of the surrounding urban landscape – completes the building as a pavilion structure on the roof.

The design is an impressive response to a challenging initial urban setting and provides a flexible and sustainable school building that will act as a hub for the entire local community.

Stadt Zürich, Amt für Hochbauten

Period of time

Filippo Bolognese Images