SAVIÈSE – Atop the vineyards of Savièse in Switzerland and overlooking the Rhône valley, rk Studio built an extension to the Moréchon educational centre. Low reflective steel panels with a glazed effect blanket over the entire building - covering the façade and the roofscape - and create a soothing environment with a passive ventilation system.
The overall form of the addition imitates the surrounding houses of the picturesque hillside towns. It also relates to the jagged outlines of the mountains in the background. The new building adds ten classrooms and a large gymnasium to the school.
The extension is split into two volumes, placed side-by-side to take up an L-shaped space. It cuts through the slope of the hillside, letting the gymnasium – technically built as a subterranean level – open up to the valley. The second mass, placed perpendicularly to the gymnasium, closes off the existing inner courtyard of the education centre. The ten new classrooms set up here are distributed on three storeys above the ground floor that connect to the gym with the bleachers descending into it.
The bare concrete interior has soft wooden details and large windows bringing in the alpine light. Reflective floors let the light seep in deeper into the building. The central core of the building is framed by slim wooden benches that fold over the doorways, creating a continuous band of texture around the space where all the students could run around and socialize.
Although colour doesn’t burst out of every corner of the building, teachers and students can rest assured that the generous openings spread out throughout the extension bring in all the colours of the mountains and vineyards to compliment the minimalist interior.
A feature that is worth noting is its singular ventilation system. The naturally ventilated building controls its air infiltration based on the time of the year and the hours of use of the school. Katia Ritz, founder of rk Studio, explains how this passive cooling system allowed them to build a ‘beautiful volume, without much ductwork.’ The key to it was to ‘separate the air circulation from light infiltration,’ thus not relying on the windows for anything other than offering extensive views of the landscape.