Elementary School in Schmitten

Architype Dialogue presents

Phillip Lehmann and Alain Fidenza, Architects

What was the single hardest issue to predict about working within this building type and/or the most unexpected challenge that influenced new thought in the building?

The greatest challenge was the search for an adequate typological-spatial solution to the issue of a primary school building. The ramp and the schoolroom shape derive from this search and are not the formal point of initiation. The basic elements in this search were to provide and promote the opportunity for social contact among the students within the building.

As a consequence, it was a great challenge to convince the building authorities of the user-friendliness of the unconventional form of the schoolrooms. A means to this end, for example, was to construct a schoolroom as a 1:1 model to examine the utility of the geometry.
Did this project or building type require an expansion and evolution of your role as an architect in any way? In general, do you feel that the role of the architect is having to expand, change, or evolve on projects?

An awareness of the translation of the drawing into the construction, of the frustrations due to weakness, sometimes modifies our perception of our role in this translation somewhat. The project, in its innovative aspects, opens a dimension of experimentation in our work and gives us confidence in our intuition and our own research. In Switzerland there is regional difficulty in accepting architectural quality; the reasons being cultural and linked to the weakness of communication, the financial aspects come in last.
How is this particular building possible today in a way that it may not have been before and how have trends in technology and society inspired new solutions?

Today’s environmental requirements in Switzerland in all cases generate a deeper research on these topics and we benefit from this; one can also say that the technology of glass, the domain with the greatest development in these last decades, notably in the USA, permitted the expression that we gave to the building and the balances of the computer modeling of the expenses and energy gains, allowing its control.
In the context of this project, how is your office and design process being influenced by current trends in academic curricula and incoming young architects? In turn, how are current projects and processes guiding the ongoing reformulation and development of academic curricula?

It is certain that, in our work, we also do not lack for social interaction or disregard references. The accumulation of experiences and the way we process tendencies, illustrations and spaces mentally, however, is probably more likely to be a part of our subconscious.

If one is so lucky as to be able to teach, one can hope to be able to rephrase this practice; or also to be able to do so through publications and critical opinions, however with the difficulty of having to explain the way completely in such case.


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