School (Kantonsschule Wohlen)
Calatrava’s contribution to Wohlen High School is
a collection of four roofs: an outside entrance canopy, an inside entrance
hall, the assembly hall and the library. His client for these roofs was the
architect of the overall school, Burkhard, Meyer & Steiger.
While all four roofs are quite different, they are all signature Calatrava:
early, domestic-scaled studies for later, grander-scaled structures. The
wing-shaped entrance canopy, whose asymmetric form links together the two
buildings either side of the angled entrance, is the first of many flight
metaphors in Calatrava’s buildings (see in particular his
airport station at Lyon). The three-dimension latticework of the
arches in the assembly hall roof is a precursor of Calatrava’s later
buildings in Toronto,Lisbonand elsewhere.
roof of the assembly hall transforms an otherwise modest, rectangular room
into an inspiring auditorium. Two rows of concrete columns define a wide
central aisle, and support a complex but light three-dimension timber roof
structure based on parabolic arches. Each of the roof sections is
prefabricated in timber: a steep, parabolic lower arch, from which batons
radiate outwards and upwards, to support the shallower parabola of the roof
itself. This structure supports the whole weight of the roof, allowing a
ribbon of uninterrupted high-level windows along each of the side walls of
subtlest and most exciting of Calatrava’s roofs at Wohlen is in the library.
Here, a concrete shell, in a symmetrical shallow curve, is supported on a
single, central, 4-meter steel column. This column carries the weight of the
whole cantilevered roof, and also acts as a central, internal drainpipe. As
a library ceiling, the mirrored curve of the concrete shell here suggests an
open book, but in section it is also suggestive of other winged forms by
roof stops short of the walls, both in plan and in height. Glazing in the
gap all around the roof, supplemented by hidden fluorescent lights, bathes
the library in a warm glow of indirect light.
Simon Glynn 2006
How to visit
town of Wohlen is about 20km west of Zurich. The school is in the northwest
of the town, best seen in an
interactive photo-map. For directions from the main road, see the
schematic map provided at the school’s web site.
school is a working school, but friendly to architecturally-minded visitors.
General information (mostly in German) is on the school’s web site at
For information about when the buildings are accessible, call the
school on +41 56 618 49 94 between 7.30am-12pm and 2pm-5pm. The library is
open from 7.30am to 6pm Monday to Friday; call +41 56 618 49 24.
Books and other web
Click the book title to view and to order direct