Saatlen school complex


Tramstrasse, 8050 Zürich

Type of contract

Competition, 1st Prize 2020

Construction period



City of Zurich, Building Department

General contractor

Bollhalder Walser Architektur AG


vetschpartner Landschaftsarchitekten AG, Zürich

Civil engineering

Borgogno Eggenberger + Partner AG, St.Gallen

HVAC planning

Wirkungsgrad Ingenieure AG, Luzern

The new Saatlen school complex is a large-scale addition to a leafy residential area. Three simple cubes are lined up along Tramstrasse. The division of the primary school, secondary school and the special needs school (SKB) into separate buildings ensures a permeable structure and gives the three schools their own identity. Both the primary school building and the SKB are three storeys tall. In this way, they fit in with the scale of the surroundings. The secondary school building, on the other hand, stands out at six storeys tall. The development of the plot is concentrated on the side of Tramstrasse, which allows for a large open space on the south-eastern half. The striking Schörli-Saatlen green corridor will be extended and will now enclose the entire site. Each of the three school buildings is bordered by a school playground with its own character, designed for the different age groups. More

The complex is well connected to the neighbourhood on all sides and offers numerous access points for pedestrians and cyclists. As before, the main entrance is on Tramstrasse. Each school building has at least two entrances, one facing the street and one facing the interior of the complex.
The project aims to disentangle the various uses and to keep distances short. Inside, the school buildings have clear structures that allow for good orientation. The special needs school is characterised by a spacious arrival room and a central access core surrounded by wide corridors. On the ground floor are the teachers’ offices, care rooms, and a large catering and multi-purpose room. The classrooms and therapy rooms are located on the two identical upper floors. The classrooms are located on the front, with a view either towards the trees or over the sports fields.
The two primary schools share a linear building but function completely autonomously. Their arrangement within the building is symmetrical. On the ground floor are the common rooms such as the teachers’ room, library and sports foyer. This adjoins the large break area and can be used as a covered break, play and study area during school hours. Two adjacent staircases lead down to the sports area and the swimming pool. Two separate staircases lead up to the school floors. On the first floor, there is a cluster of four classrooms at each end. The rooms belonging to the cluster are grouped around a common centre, the interior break area. In the middle zone, which is shared by both schools, there are the music hall and workshops on one side, and the refectories and the multi-purpose rooms with direct access to the terrace on the other side. On the first floor, each school has two further clusters with classrooms, group rooms and supervision.
There are also rooms on the ground floor of the secondary school building which, together with the break area in front, can be used as an open play and learning landscape. These include the canteen, the childcare room and the multi-purpose room. The classrooms of the secondary school extend from the third to the fifth floor. On the first floor is the kindergarten, which has its own independent access via an external staircase. The outdoor play terrace and the adjoining two-storey interior form the heart of the kindergarten. The musical conservatory is located on the first floor. The gym on the first basement level as well as the conservatory are accessible out of hours.
The three school buildings speak the same language and differ in their expression primarily through their different proportions. The horizontal expression of the individual storeys dominates, given a rhythm by vertical, thin metal profiles that reproduce the internal column grid. Each storey is divided into three parts: lintel, window area and parapet band. The latter consists of horizontal, glazed wood panelling. Light grey fibre-cement panels form the lintel.
Two-storey steel frames span the two terraces of the primary school and kindergarten. They complement the building volumes to create clear, cubic forms and define the outdoor spaces. Creepers grow upwards, provide shade and ensure a pleasant climate. Together with the long canopies, the greened steel scaffolding is one of the elements that creates the identity of the new school complex.

Terrace of the primary school
Situation plan
Situation model (Source: AHB Stadt Zürich/Photography: Susan Pop)
View from Heideggerweg
Ground floor
1st floor
2nd floor
3rd to 5th floors, secondary school
Sports hall foyer
Cross section
Longitudinal section
1st basement level
Load-bearing concrete and timber structure
View from Tramstrasse
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