The historical school complex Ilgen was built in the 19th century in the district ‘Zurichberg’ – a neighbourhood affected by the usually generous gardens of the villas. An impressive artificial terrace was created so that two school buildings and one gymnastic hall could be placed on the slightly inclined surface. Due to several modifications with terraces and fences during the 20th century, the wideness of the complex got lost. But nevertheless, the schoolyard is an important square for the quarter and – as one of the few horizontal surfaces – widely used for for sport activities.
The competition’s task was the renovation and reorganisation of the whole Ilgen school complex and its expansion with a new children’s day care centre. The strategy for the reorganisation of the historical part was easily found:
reinstate the wideness of the ‘plateau’ by transforming the topography slightly: the same percentage of inclination was re-introduced, and the sustaining walls were replaced with steps where children can sit on. Now, all the historical buildings are placed once again on the same surface, which allows the terrace to be experienced as continuous. Surrounded by the existing large volume of trees, this contiguous open area can be experienced differently.
Due to the scale and the character of the context, the placement of the new building for the day-care centre was more delicate. Based on the surrounding villa typologies, it is positioned close to the Fehrenstrasse providing a large garden for the children. This small scaled open space is a linking space between school, day-care and the existing kindergarten designed by Giacometti. To add supplemental atmospheres, the garden of the day-care building juxtaposes to the strong, classic, geometrical form of the school and introduces it´s own geometric rules. The hedge structure generates multiple small spaces that can be used as garden-classrooms or discovered through the playing elements that are implemented in the topography. Vegetation diversity, using typical Swiss mountain plants (ribes, pinus, acer…) emphasizes this variety of spaces and moreover provides a miscellany of images throughout the different seasons.
The project shows how the positioning of a building crucially influences the quality of the open space and how important the reading of the so called empty space of an urban context is. In this way, the subtle embedding and the benefit of existing qualities is possible. The main effort during the design process was probably the topographical work. The requirements of the school regarding the accesses (inclinations, surfaces), of the water management, and of the built heritage conservation, were often contradictory. At the same time the school yard and the school garden should look self-evident and not overdesigned.
Entrant office name: mavo Landschaften
Role of the entrant in the project: landscape architect, project design and site management
Other design firms involved:
Architecture: Wolfgang Rossbauer Architekt; construction management: Caretta + Gitz AG
Project location: Zurich, Switzerland
Design year: Competition 1. Prize, 2009 (as vi.vo.architecture.landscape) Reorganisation school complex 2010-2012, Day-care: 2012-2014
Year Built: Ilgen school complex 2013, Fehrenstrasse Children’s day-care center 2015