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Successful transformation

Secondary academic school, Gainfarn, Lower Austria

EU-wide open competition, 1st prize

Secondary academic school, Gainfarn, Bad Vöslau

Learning flexibility

New teaching methods call for flexible spatial concepts and a multifunctional kind of architecture: separable classrooms, work stations for teachers, encounter zones, chill-out and movement areas, outdoor teaching spaces. The era of hierarchically structured schools with classrooms strung out on long, dark corridors is over. When we first visited the former forester training school in Gainfarn/Bad Vöslau it represented exactly this kind of old-fashioned school; our aim was to modernise it fundamentally.

Secondary academic school, Gainfarn, Bad Vöslau
Secondary academic school, Gainfarn, Bad Vöslau

Amorphous, not angular

We demolished those parts of the building that could no longer be used and renovated the existing buildings dating from the 1970s. To these we added further wings arranged in a wind-wheel pattern around the new central hall, fifty metres long by sixty metres wide. Inside the hall we placed an amorphous element, because we felt there were already quite enough sharp corners. This is where the library is located, as well as a multi-purpose space.

There were already quite enough sharp corners.


The students change into their sports gear in the changing rooms, which are grouped with the showers and toilets in the rear section, and then head directly, on the same level, to one of the two adjoining sports halls or to the outdoor sports areas.

Side effect: the way the different parts of the building are placed in relation to each other creates a wide variety of outdoor spaces, niches and open areas.

Secondary academic school, Gainfarn, Bad Vöslau

The opposite of grey

To ensure that the central hall is more than just a place you walk across, we designed the stairs as a large seating area that receives plenty of light through a skylight above it. Students like to lounge here, do their homework, chat or play.

The cheerful spectrum of colouring pencil sets provided us with the inspiration for the ceiling.


The multi-coloured ‘pencil ceiling’ is an eye-catcher made from aluminium louvres that run on the diagonal below a background of black-painted acoustic ceiling panels. It is the absolute opposite of grey and efficiently absorbs the noise inevitably produced by so many kids. Serving as a connecting design element, it is found again in different parts of the building and is even continued outside as the soffit to the entrance canopy. Some people say it has become the symbol of the school.

Secondary academic school, Gainfarn, Bad Vöslau

Light, transparency, liveliness

Continuous ribbon windows turn corridors and rooms bright and airy while also ensuring a relationship to the outdoors throughout the building . The gaze is allowed to roam, thoughts can become clearer and the school-free afternoon seems closer – at least in visual terms. In the corridors windows with reveals useable as seats offer views into and out of the classrooms, generating light, transparency and vitality. The corridor-centric school is a thing of the past.

Secondary academic school, Gainfarn, Bad Vöslau

Outdoor living room

The roof terrace is an element we like to use in our school buildings, in this case we placed it on the flat roof of the central hall. On colourful round seating islands positioned between huge plant pots the students can chill out, revise, attend outdoor classes or watch their schoolmates at sports class on the playing fields below.

The ecological aspect: as well as giving the building a thermal retrofit, it was brought up to low energy consumption standard throughout. We found that complicated building services were unnecessary here. The woodchip heating system uses a fuel that is widely available in the region.

Secondary academic school, Gainfarn, Bad Vöslau
Secondary academic school, Gainfarn, Bad Vöslau
Secondary academic school, Gainfarn, Bad Vöslau
Secondary academic school, Gainfarn, Bad Vöslau
Floor plans
Secondary academic school, Gainfarn, Bad Vöslau
Secondary academic school, Gainfarn, Bad Vöslau
Site plan
[EN] Gymnasium Bad Vöslau Gainfarn


Type of commission

EU-weit offener Wettbewerb

Scope of commission





Bundesimmobiliengesellschaft m.b.H.


Bad Vöslau, Niederösterreich







Net usable floor area

9.450 m²

Gross floor area

10.600 m²

Building costs

15,0 Mio. €


Lucie Vencelidesová (PL), Anna Gruber, Michael Hasslacher, Bernd Stuffer, Joseph Suntinger, Christian Szalay, Wolfgang Fischer, Daniel Kovacs, Larissa Sandhack, Kamile Batur


Structural engineer

petz zt-gmbh

Building physics

Schöberl & Pöll GmbH

Building services

BPS Engineering

Fire safety planning

FSE Ruhrhofer & Schweitzer GmbH

Site supervision

A Quadrat ZT GmbH


Kurt Kuball (5), Lukas Schaller (4)