Unterdorf Elementary School, Höchst (AT)

The Unterdorf elementary school in Höchst is a radical, uncompromising example of a modern cluster school. In a plain, elongated, ground-level wooden building, four identical clusters are placed on the east side. The special education classes and the admin area are located on the west side, connected with the gym by a spacious hall. The clusters comprise two classrooms, an open group area and a relaxation room as well as toilets and wardrobes around a top-lighted lounge with a raised roof. A direct exit into a private garden and the outdoor classroom area includes the exterior space and enables short access routes.
Large glazing provide transparency so that the teachers can always see their students, for example, when they are learning or playing in small groups in different rooms. These visual axes also are a constant invitation to use the space in the middle, strengthening the sense of community within the cluster. Parts of the outdoor areas are available to locals as a freely accessible play and leisure area.
The entire school is of pure, unclad timber construction that is visible in every room. Students benefit from a pleasant, warm atmosphere in the building, which also saves on heating costs. The renewable, regional building material dramatically reduces the “gray” energy factor. With 940 points, the school in Unterdorf has been awarded one of the highest values for a new building in Vorarlberg’s “communal building records”. This pilot project sets a new standard for schools in Austria and, hopefully, will stimulate further timber construction in Austria.

Client: Gemeinde Höchst
Location: A-6973 Höchst, Gaißauer Straße 10
Architecture: Dietrich | Untertrifaller
Project management: Peter Nussbaumer, Katharina Reiner
Competition: 2013
Construction: 2015-2017
Area: 2,530 m²
Ecology: communal building records: 940 points
Capacity: 200 students / 8 classes + pre-school class

Awards
The Plan Award 2018; Big See Wood Design Award 2018; Wood, Design & Building Award 2017 (Canadian Wood Council)

Partner
site management: gbd, Dornbirn / structural engineering timber: Merz Kley Partner, Dornbirn / structural engineering concrete: Gehrer, Höchst / HAVCR: e-plus, Egg / electronics: Hecht, Rankweil / building physics: Weithas, Lauterach / ecology: Spektrum, Dornbirn / landscape: Heinrich, Winterthur /// photos: © Bruno Klomfar