The grounds of Christoph Merian Primary School are located in the Gellert quarter of Basel. In the west the site borders on an existing residential district with the Gellert Church, while in the east it is bordered by the city motorway N3 and the SBB railway tracks. The competition entry, which was shortlisted, aimed at clarifying the ambivalent urban design situation between Christoph-Merian-Platz and the school site.
Gellert, Basel’s most prestigious urban district, was replanned in the 1950s by Hermann Baur together with a local group of the Federation of Swiss Architects (FSA) within a basic radial system that already existed at the time. In urban design terms Christoph-Merian-Platz, the Gellert Church and the sports field form the spine of the site and can be read as sequences of continuous public spaces. Important elements of the architectural legacy, such as the listed school building with the trees belonging to it and the housing for the elderly by architects Rasser + Vadi, enrich this place.
The conversion and addition of a storey as envisaged in the competition brief fails to exploit an opportunity to clarify the ambivalent urban situation between Christoph Merian Platz and the school site in the spirit of Hermann Baur. The project therefore proposes a new replacement building that can achieve this kind of clarification as well as meeting all the functional requirements in a contemporary way with a focus on the future and for the same budget.
With an awareness of history, a meaningful new solution can be derived from a reading of the place. The existing Gellert School is renovated. Following the logic implicit in the original development plan, a new school building forms an address for the entire school site and clearly defines Christoph-Merian-Platz. In this context the new school building is understood as a space of encounter, exchange, and communication for the entire school but also for the district.
The project envisages an extremely compact new building that is set back from the street, creating a front area lined by trees. This achieves a link with the school Gellert 1. The new school stands, slightly offset, opposite the listed church but is part of the existing large-scale spatial system.
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