Theodor-Fischer-Strasse Elementary School
Integrative, flexible and integrated into the neighbourhood to scale.
The municipal elementary school on Theodor-Fischer-Strasse is located in a steadily growing residential area in Munich’s Untermenzing district. The site, on the north-western edge of the city and formerly used for agriculture, is characterised by detached residential buildings that form a uniformly loose development structure. Against this background, the new school building appears as a decidedly small-scale building volume consisting of three different-height structures. The most important role in this ensemble is played by the two 29 x 43 m school buildings. They stand at an angle on the street sides to the north and west of the site and are linked by a glass connecting building. The tallest building, with four storeys, shows a high urban presence at the intersection of Theodor-Fischer-Strasse and Pasinger Heuweg and yet remains at a respectful distance from the neighbouring buildings due to its clearly set-back location. The three-storey school building, on the other hand, is much closer to the street, forming an offset that creates a spatially contained entrance courtyard. The lowest building in the ensemble is the double-purpose gymnasium half buried in the ground at the very east of the site.
Multilayeredness as a principle
The fact that the school buildings appear to scale despite their size is due to the wide wraparound escape balconies of the classrooms on the upper floors. They ensure smooth transitions between inside and outside and structure the building volume. However, also key is the sensitive colour and material concept. The light green panels of the ventilated aluminium sheet facade and the white escape balconies harmonise with the beige plastered ground floor facade. The unifying element are the light-bronze profiles of the wood-aluminium windows. If the facades appear flat and smooth from a distance, this image changes as you move towards the building. Close up, the fine broom finish of the plaster surfaces and the slender edges of the light-green sheet metal panels come into view. The restrained, detailed plasticity of the facade is part of a well-orchestrated culture of multilayeredness found at many points throughout the building.
Also worth a second look is the artwork "Happy Saguaros" by artist Robert Voit – two lifelike 6 and 7 m high saguaro cacti made of plastic, realised as an art-in-architecture project. They can be read as a playfully critical statement on climate change, and are also a landmark visible from afar, marking the entrance area located in the connecting building between the school buildings and serving as a meeting point. At the same time, their branches, reminiscent of raised arms, symbolically welcome the children and teachers.
Contemporary teaching and learning with the learning house concept
After passing through the entrance hall, which is extensively glazed to the forecourt and the south-facing playground, children and teachers enter the dining hall on the right, which can also be used as a meeting place for up to 300 people. A folding wall positioned centrally at the front of the hall opens up further usage possibilities for the adjacent multi-purpose room. Equipped with a whiteboard, lighting and sound equipment, this room can be both a learning space and a stage.
On the three floors above the dining hall are three identical learning houses, each one designed for 4x 25 children and 10 teachers. Each learning house is designed as an independent functional unit and consists of a large central corridor area with a glazed atrium which, by means of numerous opening vents, provides not only ventilation but also night cooling. The corridor area is flanked on both sides by three equally sized learning spaces, with an all-day room between each of the two outer classrooms. In addition, there are inclusion, teacher and ancillary rooms. The all-day rooms serve as flexible additional rooms and are also used after regular class hours. They are furnished with beanbags and lounge-style furniture, while classrooms have whiteboards with media technology as well as individual desks and rolling cabinets. This furniture can be effortlessly reconfigured over and over again to support a wide variety of formal and informal learning. One of the two all-day rooms can be opened to the central corridor area by means of a folding wall. Ceiling-mounted lights and speakers also allow for a variety of uses here, such as inter-class presentations, group games and performances.
Unpretentiously elegant interiors
The two learning houses on the upper floors of the three-storey school building differ only in their north-south rather than east-west orientation. The ground floor houses the administration area as well as workrooms. The interiors of both school buildings are characterised by a clear, calm design and the restrained colours that already define the facades and place the children at the centre of the action. The built-in furniture, window frames and doors are made of larch wood, while linoleum floors, walls and ceilings decorated in light beige and white tones create an elegant but unpretentious background.
The double-purpose gymnasium is accessible via a separate entrance area at the schoolyard entrance. After passing through an underground connecting corridor, the schoolchildren (and club athletes after school hours) reach the locker rooms and the brightly-lit gymnasium. With an invisible steel roof structure and white walls and ceilings, the design of the gymnasium is similarly restrained to that of the learning houses. Here, the focus is on sports, which is shown not least by the fitness-training room. This is visually connected to the sports hall through fixed glazing and can be flexibly equipped with a wide range of training equipment for school and club sports thanks to multifunctional training walls. The overlapping of school and club uses not only promotes commercial operation and long-term intensive use of the sports areas, it also ensures that the new school is integrated into the neighbourhood as a matter of course.