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Azure Magazine November December 2022 Cover: The Residential Interiors Issue

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South of Stuttgart, a new school rises with elegant, multi-coloured pomp. Indoors and outside, the Gotthard-Müller School’s free-flowing, organic design integrates a range of uses — three individual schools and a community sports hall — into an educational campus that simultaneously celebrates communal spaces and the individual presence of every classroom.

Designed by Stuttgart’s Behnisch Architekten — who won a 2016 competition for the project — the complex comprises a trio of schools, each of which caters to a different age group and is designed around a distinct pedagogical approach.

Alongside an elementary school for younger students (Grundschule) and a community vocational school (Gemeinschaftsschule) catering to middle- and high school-age learners, the building is also home to a secondary campus for a neighbouring junior high school (Realschule). A cafeteria and sports hall — also used by the wider community — are shared by all three institutions.

To successfully combine the scholastic trifecta into a single 9,500-square-metre campus, Behnisch Architekten carved out a series of individual settings within a cohesive complex. Each of the schools occupies a distinct volume within the sinuous building, with clusters of classrooms, group spaces and multi-purpose rooms grouped together to create “learning houses” that encourage socialization and collaborative work within a more intimate setting.

A bold solid hue lends each learning zone a distinct identity — a motif that translates across the school’s facade to make the diversity of programs palpable from outside. Paired with large windows (many of which also face interior hallways) and natural wood finishes, the splashes of colour make for energized yet soothing spaces.

While individuality — and a sense of student stewardship and agency that hopefully comes with it — is a key design goal, shared, social spaces are equally prioritized. In communal zones like hallways and stairwells, the various hues come together in a vividly expressive interplay. Light-filled interior hallways and atriums are complemented by ample seating, with the deep interior window frames inviting a casual conversation.

Offering a combination of individualized learning and sociable interaction, the campus is designed to encourage open interaction between students of the various schools (and their teachers) while also catering to a variety of needs and learning styles. The dual emphasis on variety and unity also shapes the facade, with the wrap-around terraces that frame the school’s multi-hued levels, animating the exterior with circulation — and play. And to top it all off, a tranquil green roof brings learning outdoors.

In Germany, a Colourful School of “Learning Houses”

Behnisch Architekten combines a trio of pedagogical institutions into a single campus that celebrates both individuality and togetherness.

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