Learning @ Leoben
A school in a listed building in Leoben, Styria
Leoben is the second largest town in the state of Styria in central Austria. It is home to Montanuniversitaet Leoben, an internationally renowned university focusing on mining, metallurgy and materials science, and to several related industrial enterprises such as voestalpine Stahl, all of which play an important role in the life of the town.
Give our students
a school to be proud of!
Kurt Wallner, mayor of Leoben
Leading architects such as Boris Podrecca, Günther Domenig, Eilfried Huth or nonconform have realised projects here. Looking back on a long history and a rich architectural tradition, Leoben is also facing its share of modern-day challenges. Amongst others, these include a heterogeneous population and a large number of children who need special educational support.
In addition to a primary school for 300 children the school complex also houses the New Middle School Leoben-Stadt. With its 300 students, this NMS (a comprehensive school for 10- to 14-year-olds) is one of the biggest of its kind in the region. It has played a pioneering role in developing, testing and implementing innovative concepts that are core elements of the NMS syllabus today. Amongst others, these include a science focus, French as a second modern language and the ‘Good Book’, which highlights the students’ strengths and positive qualities. The federal state of Styria has honoured the school’s dedicated work with an Education Panther award.
Education is a key issue for the town of Leoben. Together with those concerned we are realising the idea of a school that fosters a life-affirming, collaborative spirit.
Conducting a dialogue with 70 teachers
During the competition stage we already held a number of workshops with the school’s 70 teachers to discuss the project and their relevant concerns, and we maintain this close dialogue in the planning stage. We have learned to discard our architectural jargon and they have learned to understand that, while we do listen closely to what they are saying, the answers we come up with may be radically different from what they had expected. It is an exciting process that works so well because we talk about needs and demands rather than ideological concepts of education.
Renovate, extend, remove
The jury liked our suggestion to leave most of the old, listed building fabric as it is; only some ancillary elements such as the caretakers’ rooms and the toilets are removed. In the newly created space between the sports hall and the listed part of the building containing the classrooms we placed a series of expansive planes that open towards the garden.
What sets our design apart is that we retain most of the building fabric but still create a whole new school.
For me it is vital that the teachers feel comfortable in the new school.
Kurt Wallner, mayor of Leoben
New openings between the corridors and the classrooms allow for more interaction and flexibility, for example for learning in smaller groups. The corridor walls itself become part of the furniture, with seating niches where students can chat and chill and small meeting tables where they can learn together. And we didn’t forget about the teachers, either: Bright and open rooms on the upper floor create an environment that enables communication as well as quiet, concentrated work.
Connect and concentrate
Removing the old bay-shaped sanitary extensions makes way for a new, stepped central area that allows students to get a breath of fresh air and enjoy a view of the beautiful park from partially roofed balconies on every floor. Seating steps and airy spaces inside the building connect all four floors, stimulating communication and creating a pleasant atmosphere during breaks and at school events.
The bright, airy centre gives the school a whole new identity. It is a connecting element in the truest sense of the word.
The school’s former basement becomes the bright main entrance with direct access to the park.
The proximity of the library, the training and school kitchen and the media room creates synergies between the NMS and the primary school on the ground floor. The centrally located old sports hall is turned into a multi-purpose space with barrier-free access, new lockers and a spacious lobby.
The extension primarily houses rooms for special activities and the sports rooms. The ground floor accommodates the studios for creative work, and on the floor above that there is an area for special science education and a movement room. The elevator at the intersection between the rebuilt fabric and the extension provides barrier-free access to the entire school; external visitors can also enter the extension here. The roof can be used as a sports ground.
Type of commission
EU-weit, nicht offener Wettbewerb
Scope of commission
Infra KG Stadtgemeinde Leoben
Net usable floor area
Gross floor area
14.4 Mio. €
Martino Libisch (PL), Carla Kuhn, Florian Haim, Barbara Wagner, Louai Abdul Fattah, Ajdin Vukovic
DI Michael Judmayer ZT GmbH
Vatter & Partner ZT Gmbh
IB Ing. Siegfried Feiel
Fire safety planning
Norbert Rabl ZT GmbH