Back to School
Elementary school and New Middle School in Eichgraben, Lower Austria
Austrians who return to the schools they once attended and look around tend to be perplexed: the general classroom setup has hardly changed. Chalkboard up front, students’ desks or tables in rows. Education policy is one of the most conservative things about Austria: 50-minute periods just like back in Empress Maria Theresia’s day, hermetic classrooms, and breaks spent in mostly dark hallways where you have to walk, not run.
An Oasis of Learning
We’d like to employ the modest means at our disposal to break up these traditions where we can – like in Eichgraben, where a lot of progressively minded teachers are at work.
It all started here much like is usually does elsewhere. The primary and middle school complex in this bedroom community, originally conceived in the 1950s, became too small as more and more people set up house here. Initially, the town did what towns always do: they hired a local builder to design some kind of random addition with a Styrofoam façade and an uninspired floor plan.
A school can be more: it can be a place of community.
But the local builder’s plan failed to satisfy those responsible, above all the mayor, and they therefore took some time to think things through. What they were after was what national policy doesn’t provide for: a progressive educational structure and an oasis of learning, music-making, dancing, and playing. For a school, Eichgraben’s stakeholders realized, can be more than classrooms that get closed up and locked in the afternoon. It can be a community center.
Expanded Spaces for Learning and Playing
The town councilors traveled around Austria to visit the country’s best schools, they held informational events, and they also organized evening discussions to get teachers, parents, and local residents involved. They then issued a tender for a new school building, and the design we submitted prevailed.
A school is a place where, even as an adult, you should be able to experience surprise when you walk in.
We’re expanding the old building with a wood-and-glass addition as well as creating separate entrances for the primary and middle schools as well as new classroom floor plans. In the school’s courtyard, we’re putting up an assembly hall with a rooftop terrace for the children who are supervised here during the afternoon. A large outdoor garden for study and play that includes teaching areas will further expand what’s possible, here. And the school’s facilities will be available for use by orchestras, choirs, and associations on evenings and weekends.
So instead of copying preexisting structures, we’re expanding the old school by new, spacious rooms while also showing a growing community how a school is a place where, even as an adult, you should be able to experience surprise when you walk in!
Type of commission
Scope of commission
Net usable floor area
Gross floor area
2,8 Mio. €
Anna Ladurner (PL), Eva Fischer, Nadine Hoffmann, Joshua Meighörner, Claude Probst, David Huber
Sarvari Energie Consulting e.U.
L.U.X. Beleuchtungskonzepte GmbH
Fire safety planning
Hoyer Brandschutz GmbH
A Quadrat ZT GmbH
A Quadrat ZT GmbH