Desert fortress meets late sixties pop in this school complex designed by Swiss husband-and-wife architectural practice Esther + Rudolf Guyer. Three large-scale yet minimalist geometric units are organised around a central square to provide a blank, open stage for student life.
The architects developed a bespoke type of clay-coloured and bush-hammered concrete. The buildings’ earthy, adobe tones hint at fortified cities in North Africa, while the outdoor lights and the two fountains reference the era’s fashion for pop art and space age design.
The theme is continued indoors, where material restraint and russet tones lend the slight air of a reformed church hall, while fixtures in bold orange add a youthful, futuristic spirit. In the music tract, things get slightly psychedelic. Classrooms are named ’Place of Irony’, ‘Place of Irrationality’ or a more sobering ‘Cold’. The teachings of brutalist architecture never fail to expand one’s mind.
The concrete oasis is best visited on a hot summer’s day, when harsh shadows add extra geometric edge and drama, and vanishing points dissolve into dazzling abstractions in the central courtyard fountain.
Widely considered one of Switzerland’s most important brutalist school buildings, PHTG inspired many similar designs throughout the seventies. Unusual for a brutalist structure, it consistently receives top marks and plenty of love from students and teaching staff alike. A recent, responsible revamp and new, but unobtrusive, concrete extensions guarantee the Guyer school complex stays top-of-class.