The social and technological changes that the entire world experienced in the last decade, have caused a paradigm shift that has fundamentally changed the way we live, work and communicate. School, as the traditional place for learning and preparation for life, is also in a process of change and it started reacting to it through new and flexible learning concepts that reflect in innovative ways of designing learning spaces. The design of the new Elementary School in Bad Mergentheim follows a holistic approach in which the learning environment is not composed by enclosed rooms, but rather by flexible, adaptive, multi-functional spaces that open and flow into the transition areas seamlessly, generating a continuous, multi-layered learning space.
According to the competition’s brief, the school’s construction had to be split in two phases, with the main teaching units belonging to phase 1 and a secondary block for canteen and special classrooms to phase 2. Although the buildings for phase 1 and 2 had to be connected to each other, they both had to keep a high level of flexibility and had to be able to operate independently. The school’s main teaching building is a relatively elongated but compact block oriented along the north-south axis of the plot whereas the block of the special classrooms and canteen is perpendicularly connected to the its extremity to the south.
The spatial layout, besides reacting to its surroundings aligning the school with the neighboring buildings and opening towards the existing sport field to the West, creates a clear functional hierarchy and at the same time conveys an urban backdrop to the school yard. This creates the possibility of perceiving the front and the longitudinal facade as the school’s public face to achieve a concise but unobtrusive appearance. The adjoining, spacious open area is included divided into three different functional zones, which flow into one another and offer versatile possibilities for exercise, play and retreat. The school yard also includes spaces for outdoor learning activities with different educational orientations, meant to combine leisure and education in a playful way.
The barrier-free development takes place in the middle of the Kopernikusstrasse. The set back ground floor with overlying the cantilevered upper storeys create a protected entrance area with a strong natural presence. Storage facilities for bicycles and scooters are in the immediate vicinity on the northern property line. The school’s ground floor podium opens up towards the school yard via generous glazed fronts that allow multiple indoor-outdoor connections. In the immediate vicinity of the entrance, the administration area opens up towards the lobby and reception area. The interior layout at the ground floor is open and the horizontal circulation leading to the main functions (music classroom, library and workshop) flows seamlessly giving the feeling of a continuous active space organized around the central atrium, more than a transitory area.
The central atrium is the heart of the school and it takes on the role of both vertical and horizontal circulation distributor, connecting at short distance all the main functions. Grades 1-2 and 3-4 classrooms are arranged in two clusters per floor. All classrooms are grouped around a spacious, open study area which provides a flexible learning space that can be used in several different ways. This arrangement creates a seamless transition from the classroom to a multi-functional learning environment that offers a high degree of adaptability to the different needs of the students.
Large glazed walls with external sun-shading lamellas are in correspondence of the classrooms entrance, enhancing the natural light exposure of the open learning islands and allowing visual connection with the outdoor playground.
All roof areas have extensive greening where drainage is channeled into an underground cistern for irrigation and grey water recycling. The roof is also used for the installation of the photovoltaic panels, air-water heat pumps and the central ventilation system with heat exchanger. In terms of energy, the draft meets the KfW-40 specifications, with opaque components ≤ 0.18 W / (m²K), transparent components and Curtain walls ≤ 1.00 W / (m²K) and skylights ≤ 1.60 W / (m²K).
The materials choice takes into account ecological aspects, cost-effectiveness and at the same time long-lasting durability in order to reduce follow-up costs during the building’s life cycle. A high degree of prefabrication can be used for the reinforced concrete structure as well as for the facade modules.
Bad Mergentheim, Germany
Bad Morgentheim Municipality