Is it architecture, is it sculpture – is it brutalism at all, or rather Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art)? With Walter Maria Förderer, one is never quite sure. The Swiss architect and sculptor certainly had a knack for using raw concrete in a highly neo-expressionist way and is best known for his monumental sacral buildings, such as Heiligkreuz in Chur and St Nicolas in Hérémence (Canton of Valais).
Between 1958 and 1964 Förderer ran architectural practice together with Rolf G. Otto and Hans Zwimpfer, specialising in educational buildings. Brunnmatt is their third object, and you can see Förderer’s signature clear-cut, sculptural style and polygonal, nested structures already in place. As impressive a sight to behold they are, most of these concrete abstractions serve a purely ornamental purpose, and thus are not exactly textbook brutalist (at least according to architectural critic Rayner Banham, not a fan). But Förderer was definitely a faithful disciple in spirit.
The practice’s radically gestural Basel school complex marked a bold departure both from the functionalist, steel-and-glass modernism and cottage-style escapism defining Switzerland’s educational architecture in the early 60’s. This has earned Brunmatt status as a listed building.