The elementary and new middle school in Puntigam, the fastest growing district in Graz, had long been struggling with the increasing demand for classrooms and communal spaces – 20 elementary school classes and all-day care for 500 students were needed. The new cluster school has a bright and open design, and with materials such as brick, clay, and hemp, which are quite unusual for an educational building, we opted for a low-tech approach that promises longevity.
GBG Gebäude- und Baumanagement Graz GmbH
Net Usable Floor Area
The labyrinthine, pavilion-like elementary school building had seen its days. In order to create an inviting entrance area and attain more space for a large school garden, we replaced the existing garden with a new, compact three-story building. The result is a contemporary cooperative education campus with ample of space for education, physical activities, and leisure.
We expanded the arrival area at the corner of Gradnerstrasse and Nippelgasse into a representative forecourt, giving a prominent face to the joint school address of the elementary and the future new middle school. The cantilevered entrance in brick required supports, which we clad with timber and today serve as covered seating niches for the children.
»The new Puntigam Education Campus offers students varied and contemporary learning landscapes with clusters illuminated from four sides, including protected open spaces. The large shared school garden is an another added value for the all-day school.«
Robert Diem, Franz&Sue partner
As far as the eye can see
Coming from the forecourt, the students enter the open central cloakroom, a two-storey air space from which one can see all the way to the rear of the building. This is followed by a spacious assembly hall and cafeteria, which in turn connect to the schoolyard. The assembly hall and cafeteria are only separated by a mobile curtain, which can be adjusted to create one large, open hall with stage situations for events. The gymnasium with window fronts facing the greenery is embedded in this spatial structure, too, so that the children can look out into nature while exercising, along with a skylight that provides additional daylight from above.
Flexible space for education
A total of five elementary school clusters, each comprising four classes, are arranged so that each has direct access to a terrace. The open learning landscapes at the centre are designed with playful furniture elements like living rooms. They form a connection to the classes as multifunctional common areas and let plenty of daylight into the entire building. With a curtain, this area can also be adapted for individual use – for example, for quiet learning phases or concentrated group work. In addition, there is a workroom for small groups and a room for the teachers. The classrooms themselves have a calm materiality. Clay-plastered walls meet large window fronts and fabric bulletin boards; a colourful band of bulletin boards adds fresh accents.
»At the Puntigam Education Campus, the colour and material concept creates a particularly warm atmosphere in the clusters, in which many generations of students will feel at home. The walls are plastered with clay or covered with felt to be used as bulletin boards. There are multiple seating niches and retreats in the form of built-in carpentry furniture, seating steps, or a play tower. We’ve really put an incredible amount of attention to detail in this school.«
Martino Libisch, Franz&Sue project manager
Colourful world of learning
The classrooms themselves have a calm materiality. Clay-plastered walls meet large window fronts and fabric bulletin boards; a colourful band of bulletin boards adds fresh accents.
No chance for boredom
After regular classes, students can move on to the all-day school, which consists of rooms for handcrafts, making music, fitness, and other leisure activities. In order to offer additional opportunities for playing, retreat, but also for storage space, we equipped the centre of the all-day school with wooden boxes. Here you can find, amongst other things, bookshelves, walk-in storage boxes, or retreat niches with curtains, a tunnel, or a castle.
The previously partitioned inner courtyard is now a green paradise for young and old. It is particularly valuable for all-day care to have varied and generous open spaces – for taking breaks, relaxing, playing, but also for sports activities or outdoor learning. On the terraces, which are assigned to each cluster, there are seating stairs for outdoor lessons, retreat possibilities, and even an escape staircase converted into a play tower – all in all, a quality place for the students to spend time. The almost 1500 m2 roof terrace accommodates an intensively planted research garden with shrubs, raised beds, and an insect hotel – a parcour leads the children along the stations.
Made to last
Sustainable and at the same time simple, built with natural materials – that was our claim for the school project. That’s why we used 50-cm-thick vertical cored bricks for the infill of the exterior walls, which we covered with clay plaster on the inside and only with 3-cm-thick hemp panels on the outside. This strategy provides ecological thermal, heat, and sound protection and replaces conventional polystyrene thermal insulation. The plaster façade on the incised terraces/courtyards is clad with a timber curtain wall with climbing plants growing up it. The clay plaster inside creates a particularly comfortable indoor climate for the pupils. This use of building materials with low consumption of manufacturing energy, a positive impact on indoor air quality, and excellent disposal potential minimises the carbon footprint of the building.
Clay and low-tech
Wood is the dominant material of the indoor spaces: for instance, the slatted spruce ceiling, the oak parquet flooring on the upper levels, or the wood panelling on the gym walls. As a contrast, the exposed concrete look of the staircase cores blend effortlessly into the spatial structure.
A heating and cooling system using deep wells and a photovoltaic system provides renewable energy without combustion processes. Automated window-gap ventilation, green islands, and additional trees work against overheating and help retain water. In addition, building materials made from renewable resources save grey energy and avoid pollutants and contaminants. Clay and wood ensure a good indoor climate and eventually an economic disposal. Under the screed, we used clay-coated wood chips as well as soft wood fibre boards. A thoroughly sustainable construction that will ensure a pleasurable learning experience for many generations of children.
And the story goes on ...
Currently, we are busy planning the second phase of the education campus: the existing new middle school will be renovated and supplemented with additional floors to accommodate four clusters with three classes each. Furthermore, we are building a polytechnic school in the courtyard with two classes focused on gastronomy and care.
Type Of Commission
EU-weit offener Wettbewerb
GBG Gebäude- und Baumanagement Graz GmbH
Gross Floor Area
Scope Of Commission
Net Usable Floor Area
Martino Libisch (PL), Silvia Mládenková, Tomasz Przybyła, Thomas Huck, Liča Anić, Philip Bato, Claude Probst, Hana Benova
Pilz und Partner
Lauer-Pelzl-Stadlhofer; Ogrisek und Knopper; Bauklimatik
Fire Safety Planning
Projektsteuerung: Lugitsch und Partner