Miller Maranta - Switzerland
Volta School Building
Wasserstrasse 40, Basel
1996 - 2002

The Volta schoolhouse, designed by Quintus Miller and Paola Maranta, emerged from a competition, which was announced by the Canton Basel-Stadt.
The demand for this building is the consequence of growing pupil numbers due to immigration and of increased spatial requirements by the Basel school reform.
The educational orientation of the primary school is based on a new school concept, trying to integrate best possible the high proportion of foreigners in the city district.
In addition to classrooms, the school has special rooms that comply with the new teaching model. The building is located in the north of the city Basel, at the transition
between closed street fronts of Wilhelminian buildings and large industrial areas. Like plug the elementary school sits at the edge of an
unraveling residential neighborhood.
The neutrality of the volume reflects the fact that in this area unclear rest rooms and street courses relativize the importance of a proper front and back. Two firewalls,
which confine a hermetic box on a tight parcel, respond to the exterior space deficits. This building distinguishes itself from the heterogeneous and "dysfunctional" environment,
 but at the same time is closely linked to its context anyway, since it is actually the extension to an existing oil tank storage, which is part of an adjacent heating plant.
Housed in a crude exposed concrete shell of the sixties, the tank storage was at the center of the architectural and urban design competitions, which were carried out here 1996.
The lower
space requirements in future resulted in a partial demolition of the tank storage and resulted in the mentioned competition. The realized concept of Miller & Maranta
physically and typological relates to this infrastructure. Like a phantom
the missing part of the building continues to live on in the new construction. The new building was directly
implanted into the deep pit, its facades continue the existing alignment flush and in the same material. Its interior reveals
modular organization related to the tank storage.

Already in the competition proposal, which differs only little from the realized builiding, Miller & Maranta colaborated with the Civil Jürg Conzett. Together they elaborated
a concept based on an interaction of structure and typology. Load-bearing wall slabs, which are necessary to span the double gym in the basement, act as space generating elements.
The static height of these prestressed concrete bulkheads encompasses all four floors above ground and defines the four fields which determine the space dispositive of teaching floors.
In the perforated facades this macrostructure appears as little as the tremendous depth of the parcel. The differentiated interior forms a counter-world to the abruptness
with which this architecture confronts its surroundings. This retraction strategy has a programmatic character. With the new building the city of Basel evaluated a teaching model,
which takes into account the high proportion of foreign children in the neighborhood. The aim is their integration while promoting cultural identities. Students are taught not only
in German but also in their own language, which requires a variety of special rooms. Because of this programming, the Volta schoolhouse features a more dynamic inner life
than it would be the case with a conventional classroom-based elementary school. The students of one age-group frequently change the classrooms that are not next
to each other aligned along corridors, but arranged one above the other in a bulkhead-like layout. This nearly square floor plan is completed by spaces for groups
and special classes as well as four atriums and two staircases.

From the schoolyard, which also has a meaning as public exterior space, one enters into a generous entrance hall. From this hall, which extends over the whole length
of the building, a stair which is positioned
slightly asymmetrically in the plan and arranged transversely to the foyer, gives acces to the first floor. Another staircase,
which is placed at the end of the hall, leads to the first basement. There are located the gallery of the gymnasium and the dressing rooms. From here one gets to
the vast basement with the gym. In the upper classroom stories, the close relationship between spatial order and supporting system becomes obvious. The building
 is divided into four layers, each of these layers features a patio for light and ventilation. The classrooms are accessible on each floor by a meander corridor. This circulation
 zone narrows between the bulkheads and widens in the field of atriums where are located two staircases on each floor. This layout allows transverse and diagonal views
through the space layers. From any position you can see all four patios which by this way become a spatial continuum. The classrooms are located along the exterior façade
within the measurement of the bulkheads, a separately accessible group room is connected to each classroom. The four upper floors feature six special rooms,
which are used among other things for music and crafts. There are also nine further rooms for the subject of special education, for the language and
religious education, a library and a stronghold for the afternoon care.