Designing for Aiglon College
John Ruskin’s thoughts about the main requirements to achieve goodness in architecture match our initial thoughts exactly when we started to design this new, important project for the Aiglon College Community. The Assembly and Arts Building will be a key to the school’s future campus development and educational mission, and will be central to the daily life of the school community. The main goal of the project is to give the best possible response to the intentions of Aiglon College: to build an internal community space that is as beautiful and inspirational as the unique alpine exterior, and creating the best possible conditions for assemblies, learning, music recitals and performing arts. It should be an iconic building in the history of Aiglon College, representing the identity of the school in a coherent way at the heart of its alpine campus. It should be a harmonious building of distinction and at the same time be a keystone building, a transformational element unlocking the further development of the "village" campus, preserving the unique alpine character of the landscape and architecture. It will be built in a fashion that blends harmoniously into the pristine alpine village environment. This dedicated space at the heart of the campus will be able to reinforce the sense of community in the school, providing a facility with the potential to serve the entire Villars-sur-Ollon locality. Last but not least, the project should be viable within the rules of the local planning authorities, complying with the PPA (Plan Partiel d'Affectation) En Collonges of the Municipality of Ollon.
To insert a big volume in a harmonic way in this sensible landscape, as well as fulfilling the sometimes ambiguous and contradictory requests, rules and regulations of the PPA En Collonges, requires a high degree of sensibility and constitutes a real challenge for the architect. There are many limitations pertaining to the site such as:
o Limitations of the height by a private servitude.
o Limitations of the height depending on the roof typology and roof shape.
o Limitations of the roof shape depending on the building’s content.
o Limitations of the facade lengths and the distance between buildings.
o Limitations in the expression and materialization of the building.
o Different rules depending on the building typology.
o Limitations in volume and internal areas depending on the building typology and the roof shape.
The setting of the new Assembly and Arts Building within this unique alpine landscape is conceived to harmoniously integrate the new volume in the Ensemble that is characterized by the typical scattered settlement of Chalet-Architectures, without disturbing the sensitive pattern, character and expression of the preexisting context. The new volume is compact, has a typical sloping roof and is a wooden construction placed on a massive basement, like typical alpine architectures, but nevertheless appears, with it's archaic typological form, clearly as a strong building underlining the public and representative character, conferring an appropriate dignity to the Aiglon College institution. It is a public building, harmoniously inserted in the unique Alpine context.
The project deals with the sometimes contradictory limitations of the PPA, defining a very compact volume, capable of hosting the whole building program in an organic architecture, in the sense of Frank Lloyd Wright, where form and function are one - integrating all the spaces into a coherent whole, achieving a marriage between the site and the new architecture. Following the ideal virtues of architecture, the new building wants to act well, and do the things it is intended to do in the best possible way. It wants to speak well, and say the things it intended to say with the best possible expressions and gestures, inspired by the solid alpine building traditions and typologies, taking on typical tectonic and structural concepts in a modern way. It wants to look good, and please us by its presence, whatever it wants to do or say, placing the Assembly and Performing Hall with elegance, suspended delicately on a massive punctual support, like a precious wooden case held at the fingertips of a strong but sensitive hand, forming the exhibition and arrival space, which will take advantage of the exceptional alpine views to the south. The simple, self-explaining form of the building, completed by the complex but clear interior structure with its solid materials, details and high quality spaces for performances, learning and gatherings, makes it an iconic architecture, expressing the holistic approach to education of Aiglon College and its core values.
Layout | Contents
The building is set along the main pedestrian campus pathway, which connects the School Hub and the core teaching facilities, and is entered from north, where the entire entrance floor is conceived as a central, dedicated Exhibition & Arrival Space, articulating itself around a central core element, which hosts all the public supporting spaces of the building:
o Cloakroom, WC and Bar.
o The main access stairs to the Assembly and Performance Hall, upstairs, and to the Music Recital Hall downstairs.
o The overhead space of the Music Recital Hall.
The Arrival & Exhibition Space surrounds the central core and offers a full panoramic view towards the beautiful alpine landscape. The Assembly and Performance Space is elevated above the Entrance Hall, and is conceived as an elegant wooden case, in which all the requested configurations can be arranged, using the mobile tribunes, galleries and associated spaces as required. A flexible space, able to support the whole gathering for daily meditations as well as performances of music and drama, but also examinations and gala dinners. A double stair leads directly from the Arrival Hall to the two lateral foyers of the Assembly Space, from which the public can enter centrally into the space. Another double stair leads downstairs to the Foyer of the Music Department, where all the related functions, like practice rooms, recording studios, and digital music suites are arranged around the core Music Recital Hall. From the Music Department Foyer, a gallery window offers a view from above of the Black Box Drama Studio, which is accessible from the lower level - from the partially underground level. On this lower level of the Assembly and Arts Building, the Drama Classroom and the Black Box Drama Studio find their natural collocation on the same level. The Drama studio is oriented towards the valley to profit from its natural light via special light bays, integrated into the surrounding topography.
Quality of Spaces
The spaces are designed carefully to ensure that they fit their purposes, taking into consideration the limits given by the restrictions of the local regulations and the high density given by the program within these limitations. According to the alpine character of the context, but also to the function of the building, the interiors are characterized essentially by a wooden materialization, which is completed in the basement by high quality apparent concrete walls and terrazzo floors in the public circulation spaces, to get an intimate interior environment in the spectacular alpine setting of the Aiglon Campus.
Expression and Materialization
The expression of the building is at the same time traditional for the local alpine context, evoking, in its tectonic, the typical vernacular Architectures of the Swiss alps and in its shape the typical recent "Chalet”-buildings; as well as contemporary in showing a modern use of wooden construction technologies combined with high quality apparent concrete, that let The Assembly and Arts Building appear as a contemporary iconic building with a strong character reflecting the vision of Aiglon College: unique among the best.
The project is conceived to meet the Swiss Minergie® Certification specifications.