05. Mar 2010

Mühleholz II school complex in Vaduz/FL
Flooded – with daylight

Text: David Müller
Photos: Rainer Wührer

Liechtenstein: small, idyllic and quiet – that is the image one has of the Alpine microstate at the foot of the western Alps. The capital of Liechtenstein is Vaduz. The majority of the approximately 5000 inhabitants work in banks or in the tourist industry. Just over one year ago architects Günther Domenig and Peter Kaschnig designed a new school building in the town. Owing to the method of construction customary in that part of the world, the planned steel constructions applied to the building’s structure were required to be replaced by dominant windowless concrete walls. Energy efficiency requirements together with acknowledgement of the positive impact daylight can have on pupils’ learning behaviour and abilities led the architects to collaborate with the Swiss lighting design practice Art Light GmbH to develop a concept that allows significantly more natural light into the building. The result: a bright and friendly learning environment that uses daylight to an optimum.

Mühleholz School is located on the skirts of an idyllic wood and adjacent to a large cornfield in foothills of the Alps. The original building was designed by an architect by the name of Gisel back in the seventies, and is among his most significant pieces of architecture. The now listed building forms a focal point between a populated and an unpopulated area, offering schoolchildren and teachers alike numerous opportunities for recreation and sport in a natural setting. The existing school building proved to be too small and a new building was required to accommodate around 200 twelve to sixteen-year-olds. “Mühleholz II”, as the new school building has be-come known, was to be built directly adjacent to the existing building, and separated only by a sports field. Swiss architects Günther Domenig and Peter Kaschnigwon the design competition that was run in 1998. Their concept comprised a flat structure that appeared to be „rising up out of the ground”. The access and recreation area, which are located above a three-court gymnasium, was designed as a long slope with a two percent incline. The cuboid structure above that was to provide space for classrooms and corridors, generating the impression of a building floating over the inclined entrance – a direct reference to Kästner´s classic “The Flying Classroom”. Once the winner of the design competition had been determined a team of specialist designers was put together, including an independent designer to handle the daylight design and the electric lighting design. Like all public buildings in Liechtenstein the school building was also required to meet the so-called “minergie standards”, i.e. it had to be energy efficient. It was thus critical to pay special attention to this requirement from the onset of the planning phase. […]
The full version of the article can be found in PLD No. 70.

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