A cluster of different education and care institutions for 4- to 18-year-old children and adolescents forms a veritable school district of its own in the centre of Dornbirn. While Dornbirn takes an integrated approach to special education, a separate building has been erected for severely disabled children to replace the previous building, which was dilapidated and whose basic structure had been outdated for years. A small gymnasium, built at the end of the 19th century, serves as the distinctive cornerstone of the school grounds. The new building frees up the gymnasium and blends in with the historical building opposite in terms of the overall streetscape and its general spatial surroundings. A courtyard of sorts is also established with the neighbouring primary school, which also acts as a smooth spatial transition to the west side of the secondary school.
The class and group rooms on the three upper floors are grouped densely around a central inner courtyard. The surrounding circulation elements are spacious, light-flooded play and exercise areas and their nearly ceiling-high openings provide not only a marvellous view of the outside, but also open up interior vistas as well. The large window frames in the group rooms also bring out the best of the urban and natural surroundings. The atrium flows into a covered schoolyard on the ground floor and provides the gymnasium in the basement with sufficient light through the additional opening provided by the cleverly situated emergency stairs.
The fine, accurately moulded exposed concrete is the counterpoint to the interplay of birch plywood panelling and coloured surfaces within the building. Green, the symbolic colour of life, permeates the building in subtly coordinated nuances on the walls and floors, lights up the rooms and changes shades depending on the direction and lighting. Colour accents cast furniture in red and orange, and the red linoleum floor in the auditorium and the staff room signify a space of retreat and communication. A soft, stony white hue neutralises the ambience in the special education rooms.
The energy performance is top notch; the controlled ventilation, the compactness of the structure and the quality of the materials used guarantee optimal values. The proportions, the conscious direction of light and attention, the colour concept and the standard of construction combine to form a consistent spatial whole, which at least harmonises and gives a little structure to the world of severely disabled children and adolescents while at the same time inspiring them.