Open Competition, Wattwil, 2020
Weyell Zipse with Westpol Landschaftsarchitektur
A building on the riverbank
The new cantonal school Campus Wattwil is interpreted in urban planning terms as an extension of the banks of the Thur. Its unique potential for a learning and meeting place as part of the river landscape is the driving force behind the design. Accordingly, the idea of a building directly on the water is the leitmotif for the design of the new cantonal school. A long, flat, two-storey building accompanies the riverbank. The building type is reminiscent of the textile industry factories that were built in the immediate vicinity in the course of industrialization and introduced a new urban scale along the Thur.
A tower marks the entrance to the school building. It is a landmark and symbol for the urban development of Wattwil. Together with the new pedestrian bridge, it is already visible from Bahnhofstrasse and guides visitors towards the campus. A new urban axis is being created along which the educational campus can develop in the future and in the middle of which the banks of the Thur will become the most important public space.
As a timber construction, the school building has a forward-looking and resource-saving design. At the same time, it ties in with the building tradition in the region. Its expression with façade elements recycled from old wood is directly related to the natural river landscape.
The extensive development of the site results in a densification of the public spaces along the Thur. This is good for the campus, as life takes place directly on the riverbank. The building opens up here and – filtered through the filigree wooden façade – allows views in and out. The assembly hall, media library and canteen are arranged on the first floor, divided by atriums and along a gallery that runs alongside the river. This makes these areas, which are used by the entire campus, easily accessible for everyone. The gallery is the heart of the building. It is a place to meet and circulate, but also a place to stay and learn. It gives the school building its specific identity and places social contact and interaction at the heart of everyday school life. The open façade brings the beauty of the river landscape and the changing seasons into the building.
Niches designed as open-air classrooms on the façade structure the first floor and link it to the outside space. In between are open staircases leading to the classrooms. This creates differentiated meeting places both indoors and outdoors that invite appropriation.
All classrooms are located on the second floor and have equal qualities. Divided into groups of eight and subdivided by inner courtyards, they offer optimal conditions for concentrated learning. Skylights guarantee plenty of light and enable cross-ventilation, which is a basic requirement for natural ventilation and night-time cooling: when skylights and ventilation sashes on the façade are opened at the same time, a chimney effect is created, enabling a rapid exchange of air during breaks. The air volume added by the shed roofs increases the fresh air reservoir when the windows are closed. This means that the current guideline values for the maximum concentration of CO2 can be complied with – even without the need for intermediate ventilation during a lesson.
The classrooms facing the inner courtyards are set opposite the learning landscapes facing the Thur. These areas can be used and furnished flexibly, largely free of fire protection requirements. The double group rooms also contribute to this: Thanks to mobile partition walls, these rooms can not only be connected but even extended into the front zones. This creates many small or a few large room units as required.