Wohlen High School (Kantonsschule Wohlen)
Allmendstrasse 26
5610 Wohlen

Santiago Calatrava 1988

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, Lisbon and elsewhere.

The 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 the hall.


The 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 Calatrava.

The 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

The 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.

The school is a working school, but friendly to architecturally-minded visitors. General information (mostly in German) is on the school’s web site at www.kanti-wohlen.ch. 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 sites

Click the book title to view and to order direct from


3822878839_m.gif (13082 bytes) Santiago Calatrava
Philip Jodidio


3764356278_m.gif (7764 bytes) Calatrava: Public Buildings

Santiago Calatrava, Stanislaus Von Moos (Editor)

Comprehensive and priced to match (though well discounted at amazon); includes detailed description, drawings and construction photographs of this building


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