Junior High School

Graz, Austria

A somewhat heterogeneous urban environment, lacking a distinct focus provides the context for this new school building. The design proposal deliberately sets itself apart from the surrounding residential and commercial buildings, incorporating the various spaces for pupils into a ring-shaped layout around a courtyard. The characteristic form of the building helps foster the feeling of a school community, promoting internal communication.

From the exterior it resembles the traditional city block, whilst at its centre, protected from the noise of the heavily trafficked streets, lies the heart of the complex, a large, new public courtyard characterised but not dominated by the daily operations of the bank itself and further enlivened by extensive planting, large reflecting pools and public art.

The building is organised with the main entrance foyer, exhibition spaces, shops, galleries and public restaurants surrounding the court, extending the public realm across the site, benefiting the streetscape and ensuring that the building truly contributes to city life. At the north eastern corner of the complex, the distinctive tower develops out of the perimeter block as it turns inwards towards the centre of the courtyard. The expressive form of the tower refers not to the styles of the immediate surroundings, nor the orthogonal grid of the post-war city, instead it is a response to the historical downtown geometries to the north.

A vast proportion of the building is naturally ventilated. The interior is characterized by design decisions related to the progressive energy concept; superstructure is exposed and windows provide ventilation. Areas of ‘double facade’ provide protection against noise and vehicle emissions, whilst also serving as a duct transferring clean air from the central courtyard to the individual offices. The large areas of water in the courtyard increase the reflection of daylight and contribute towards a beneficial microclimate. Generous roof gardens not only soften the appearance of the building, they act to improve the general climate for the occupants, and to collect rainwater for irrigation and use within the building. Staff well-being is promoted through numerous terraces providing for informal seating areas and new viewpoints out over the city.

Photos

Location

Graz, Austria

Architect

Behnisch, Behnisch & Partner

Competition

1999, 3rd prize