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General renovation of the St.Gallen Centre of Vocational Education and Training (GBS)

The essentially coherent composition of the Centre of Vocational Education and Training is an architectural legacy from its time. From a present-day perspective the building fabric offers a robust basis for further life cycles. In view of the high architectural and resource-related value of the complex we pursue a consistent strategy to continue the building.

The ensemble that is positioned with great precision follows clear ideas with regard to structure, proportion and materialization. A powerful plinth with a striking parapet and usable terrace creates a podium for the three differently formulated building volumes that are placed on top of it. Together with the medium-height wing the main building with the infrastructure towers at the short ends forms a frame for the assembly hall at the front. The uniform materialization, fenestration and colouring combine all the parts to create a whole.

Our strategy proposes continue the idiom of the existing buildings in a slightly modified form: the low-rise part of the building is augmented at points in the east, the tall part with the plinth is doubled in length so that it becomes the powerful spine of the entire complex. The previously freestanding sports hall and the new road maintenance base are pragmatically integrated in the ensemble.

The organisational principle that underlies the three layers of the main building is continued in the new building. The spatial ‘shelf’ consisting of a structure of piers and slabs in conjunction with the different depths of the plans creates a great diversity of spaces. On the large continuous floor areas the spatial structures of the educational units called for by the users with the areas ‘space + zone + box’ can be simply organised. A differentiated, permeable, and communicative landscape for learning and work is created that offers open, flowing sequences of spaces from facade to facade, temporarily separable areas, and places to withdraw to for quiet, focused teaching and learning.

The compact quality of the new buildings with their good volume-to-area ratio, minimal use of CO₂-optimised reinforced concrete, widespread use of wood and reused existing building parts produce a good grey and operating energy balance. Through the compact augmentation valuable open spaces are preserved that offer ideal conditions for the intended sponge city and for the preservation of biodiversity with a good microclimate, while at the same time creating an attractive space for recreational purposes.

Visualisations: © indievisual, Zurich

Index: 306 BWZ
Date: Competition 2021–2022

Team EM2N
Partners: Mathias Müller, Daniel Niggli · Associate: Fabian Hörmann · Project team (competition): Baptiste Blot, Guido Greco, Emmanuel Laux, Coralie Placide
Model making: Joey Frei, Jonas Rindlisbacher

Specialist planners
Construction management / construction realisation: Archipel Generalplanung AG, Zurich · Construction consultancy / construction economics: Archipel Generalplanung AG, Zurich · Landscape architecture: Balliana Schubert Landschaftsarchitekten AG; Zurich · Civil engineer: Schnetzer Puskas Ingenieure AG, Zurich · Facade planning: Mebatech AG, Baden · Building services: Abicht Zürich AG, Zurich · Building physics / acoustics: Lemon Consult AG, Zurich · Fire protection: Abicht Zug AG, Zug

St.Gallen, Switzerland

Competition, 3rd prize and purchase

City of St.Gallen



Archives, Ateliers, Auditorium, Canteen, Delivery area, Foyer, Meeting rooms, Offices, Parking, Sanitary rooms, Seminar rooms, Teaching spaces, Technical facilities, Waste disposal rooms, Workshop spaces

32,000 m²