School in Paspels – Valerio Olgiati

architects_ Prof.dipl. Architekt ETH/SIA Valerio Olgiati,
collaborators_Iris Dätwyler, Gaudenz Zindel, Raphael Zuber
location_ Paspels, Switzerland
construction year_ 1997
construction supervisor_ Peter Diggelmann
structural engineer_ Gebhard Decasper
photography_ © Archive Olgiati
materials_in-situ concrete, bronze, larch wood

The village of Paspels is a scatter settlement consisting of solitary buildings strewn loosely in the landscape and rarely positioned directly by the roadside. The new schoolhouse fits in with this type of settlement.

With a square ground plan, the building basically consists of two concrete parts: an internal structure and an outer shell which, for climate-control reasons, only touch where they are joined by so-called shear connectors. The two parts support each other.
The classrooms, clad in larch wood, are situated in the corners of the square, each opening out towards a different direction of the compass. In order to ensure that all the rooms have their own view, the second floor has been rotated 90°.

The principle behind this project is based on a distortion of the originally orthogonal ground plan. All the resulting irregularities are the computer-generated outcome of this unique architectural gesture.

In order to avoid undue dramatization of the space, the distorted angles within the schoolhouse never deviate from a right angle by more than 5°. In phenomenological terms, this slight deviation has two main effects. The basically static system of the rooms is set almost imperceptibly in motion, increasing the sense of ‘spatiality,’ while the exterior body of the building is invested with a greater sense of ‘physicality.’

In this way, a building is created that is not simply an accumulation of forms but presents a new indivisible whole. This in turn owes its existence less to an unfathomable emotionality than to an unfathomable rationality inherent in the building’s structural reality.