North African desert fortress meets late sixties pop in this ground-breaking brutalist school complex designed by Swiss husband-and-wife architectural practice Esther + Rudolf Guyer
This concrete oasis in the Swiss border town of Kreuzlingen (Germany and Lake Constance are just a stone’s throw away) is best visited on a hot summer’s day, when the architecture dissolves into dazzling abstractions on the surface of the central pool, while harsh shadows add extra geometric edge and drama to the three large-scale yet minimalist school units. They are organised around the main square providing a blank, open stage for student life. The structure’s earthy, adobe tones hint at fortified cities in North Africa, while the street lights and the two fountains reference the era’s fashion for pop art and space age design.
In order to achieve the distinctive look, the architects developed a bespoke type of clay-pigmented concrete and used a bush-hammered finish. The exterior 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.
Widely considered one of Switzerland’s most important brutalist educational buildings, the A-Level College of Pedagocial Studies Kreuzlingen 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 guarantees the complex stays top-of-class.