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Brunnmatt Schulhaus, Basel © Karin Bürki/HEARTBRUT. Explore more on

Brunnmatt School

Picture of Words & Photography: Karin Bürki

Words & Photography: Karin Bürki

A Brutalist volcano

The striking combination of concrete sculpture and primary school in Basel’s Gundeli district bears the unmistakable signature of Walter Maria Förderer. The sculptor and architect designed some of Switzerland’s boldest Brutalist churches and was the creative force behind the pioneering architecture of the University of St. Gallen (HSG). But the interlocking, angular and massive concrete sculptures that later became his trademark are still very playful and experimental here. The complex comprises a main wing, a sports hall and assembly hall, a kindergarten and outdoor play areas. Thanks to smart landscaping, the expressive exposed concrete statements blend smoothly into the residential neighbourhood.

Following a comprehensive overhaul in 2014, the main building is also a brutalist volcano: Saskia Eden’s metallic lava flows run slowly and heavily down the walls from the emergency overflows on the roof, lending a silvery, shimmering dynamic to the hard, sharp-edged architecture. We eagerly await the next eruption.

After two careful refurbishments, the Brunmatt school building looks as fresh and new as ever. The complex is a prime example of how to treat post-war concrete buildings with respect and care.
The sculptural concrete school is based on Förderer, Otto and Zwimpfer’s pioneering design for Neumatt secondary school in nearby Aesch, completed in 1962.

© Karin Bürki/Heartbrut

© Karin Bürki/Heartbrut

Neumarkt Brugg, Shopping Centre, Office Tower, Gabriel Droz, Brugg, 1971-1976, © Karin Bürki/Heartbrut, Swiss Brutalism. Explore more on
Swissmill Tower, Haarder Haas Partner, Zurich, 2013-2016, Swiss Brutalism, © Karin Bürki/Heartbrut. Explore more on
Roccolo, Seminar Centre, Retreat, Miller & Maranta, Castasegna, Val Bregaglia, 2004, © Karin Bürki/Heartbrut, Swiss Brutalism. Explore more on