Rattenberg, Austria‘s smallest town is located in the Tyrolean lowland and has a population of 440 people. It has managed to preserve its picturesque late-medieval ambience to the present day mostly undamaged. The extension to a secondary school was needed as the building became too small to meet todays demands of afternoon care for the pupils. It is anything but the kind of architecture that attempts to integrate itself easily in its environment. It is decisively self-confident and contemporary. At the same time the new building is sensitively inserted into the historical ensemble, which it reflects in a wonderful way thanks to a playful use of historic proportions, colours, shapes and materials.
The site of the new school building is a sensitive one. It sits between a former Augustine monastery and a 1970 extension housing a gym. The Gothic monastary underwent a magnificent Baroque transformation in the 17th century. Since the 1970s it has been transformed partly into a museum of religious art and a secondary school. On its short side the slender new building, which connects school and old town is linked to the monastery at a right angel through a small glass bridge, while to the right it docks onto the gym with a fragile glass roof construction. A new, partly covered outdoor space and school yard were gained through raising the building from the ground. Its paving give a highly urban impression. It suggests a variety of possible uses, and is ideal for semi-public events, for instance.
Extravagantly positioned openings constitute the particular charm of the new school in Rattenberg. In the narrow facade onto the street a single large, square window, opulently surrounded in copper, is incised flush with the wall, as a kind of representative display window. On the horizontal facades the windows are in contrast to the ‚Schaufenster‘ small and, as they are fitted flush to the inner face they appear like dark holes.
A number of important interventions were made in the gym itself. After its refurbishment the space offers an attractive location for school events. The gym was not only updated to meet newest building standards with its infrastructure adapted to meet the current demands of school sporting activities, but both of its side facades were opened up – On one side to a narrow gallery, on the other side to the remaining garden once a lovely old monastery garden surrounded by a stone walls.
Bright colours, glass and wood play an important role in the interior. As does fair-faced concrete of an unfamiliar kind: the walls of the classrooms were poured in a wooden formwork so that the striking wood grain is „immortalized“ in the surface of the concrete. A delightful visual effect with the side-effect of particular relevance for the school – these walls reflect sound to the sound absorbing ceiling.