Stettbach Secondary School marked an important milestone for young architectural couple Esther and Rudolf Guyer. It was their office’s very first school competition win – but more importantly, it presented a great opportunity for the Guyers to deepen their love for Le Corbusier. They essentially packed Corbu’s design of La Tourette monastery into their suitcase and adapted it for Schwamendingen district on the outskirts of Zurich.
Set in a generous and neatly manicured, sloping park landscape, the complex is accessed via a monumental flight of stairs from busy Dübendorferstrasse. It comprises a main school tract and one containing a gym and an indoor swimming pool. A covered passage leads to the main entrance and the schoolyard. While the exterior is kept in béton brut, the interior is dominated by unfaced brickwork. Throughout the tracts, concrete art interventions by Eva Pauli in bold orange, blue, green and violett break up the sacral-ascetic vibe, presumably much to the relief of the schoolkids who came of age in the late sixties.
Stettbach launched the Guyers’ career, which in their brutalist phase comprised schools, army barracks and church buildings across Switzerland. Though their secondary school is essentially textbook Corbusier, the architects’ own design sensibilities are already in place: location-specific solutions, ascetic aesthetics, material restraint – and a fondness for chandelier street lamps and futuristic orange. Seven years on, the Guyers would go full 70’s psychedelica in their design for Gewerbeschule Zurich.