Winterthur vocational school

Berufsfachschule Winterthur, Fischer Architekten AG Zürich

Together with the existing buildings the new building proposed for Winterthur vocational school forms an ensemble that extends across the street. The way the building is integrated in urban space is based on the historical forecourts of public buildings in the town. The simple spatial structure around the central atrium ensures flexible use, a high level of functionality, and good daylighting.

Winterthur vocational school is extending its existing complex on Tösstalstrasse by adding a new building. This building is to include around 40 classrooms, a triple gymnasium, as well as lounges and administration offices.

Together with the three existing buildings the proposal creates a spatial ensemble that extends across the street and strengthens the entire vocational school complex in terms of organisation, operation, and economics. The newly formulated open space on the campus fits into the series of public parks and squares along the “Promenadenring”. The new forecourt creates an address and has a further key function: it serves as the centre of the campus and establishes visual and orientation relationships to the existing buildings and their entrances.

The physical expression of the new building reflects the requirements of a technical vocational school, particular attention being paid to the flexible organisation of space, a high level of functionality and good daylighting. The structural spine of the spatial structure is formed by an infrastructure storey that houses all the building services and occupies a central position in the building’s layout. Below this floor is the large volume of the gym hall, which is free of internal columns and is lit from large lightwells at the side. This clarity and the simple basic structure that results from it allows the building to be operated in a variety of ways and ensures that the spatial organisation can be easily adapted to meet new needs at any time.

The overall structure, which is built up on a modular system and is also expressed in the gesture of the volume, is illustrated by the building shell. The design of the façade offers a translation of the term “crescendo”, which is borrowed from music. The facade columns that taper upwards / widen downwards are a logical consequence of the transfer of loads and forces.

The approach to the composition of the facade reaches a highpoint in the design of the atrium in the interior. For those entering it this centrally positioned, top-lit exhibition and lounge space offers a guide to finding their way around the entire building. By stepping back the encounter zones on each level the void can widen in cross-section as it rises upwards, giving this space its own, simply created identity – depending on the direction of movement and view a “decrescendo”. Communal areas, study niches and informal meeting points are laid out around this central zone.

The outdoor space is designed in a functional, robust, and subtle way. To the north and east the building is edged by a meadow with wildflowers, which through the systematic use of native plants supports and encourages biodiversity and the sustainable development of the location. This is augmented by a “clasp” formed by trees that surrounds the rear area of the school.

Tösstalstrasse 29/31, 8400 Winterthur, Switzerland
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Task New building with 40 teaching spaces and a triple gym
Job type Competition, open procedure
Time period 2019
Challenge Integration in the vocational school’s existing campus at the interface to the core city