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18.02.2022 - Ausgabe: 1/2022

The "Haus am Bach" (House by the Brook): ISGY – Gymnasium Ismaning (Ismaning Grammar School)

By Petra Stautner (Stautner + Schäf Landschaftsarchitekten und Stadtplaner Part. mbB)

© Stautner + Schäf Landschaftsarchitekten und Stadtplaner Part. mbB

With the aim of making the new state grammar school in Ismaning, which was approved in 2013, ready to open within the shortest possible planning and construction time, the municipality decides to convert a vacant existing building instead of building a new one. The building complex of the former Telekom educational centre and later Commundo conference hotel on Seidl-Kreuz-Weg is to be converted into a four-form entry grammar school in just two years.

The site of the future ISGY is located close to the town center, only a few hundred metres from the commuter rail (S-Bahn) station, and at the same time set in an idyllic landscape on the meadows of the Kernbach brook, surrounded by closely spaced trees, in the midst of nature. 

The peace and tranquillity of the place and its special atmosphere have an immediate calming effect on those who come to see it for the first time. The chirping of birds and the buzzing of insects follow you around the deserted grounds. The south-facing open spaces are naturally shaded by numerous large trees and bordered by the lower-lying Kernbach brook. On its banks, lined with old willows and ash trees, the atmosphere is almost magical. It is important to preserve this atmosphere, to include it into the design process and to convey it to the students. 


Design concept 

It soon becomes apparent that the planning approach adopted for this project cannot be based on maximizing the available paved school playground areas. Rather, the quality of this place can encourage people to take a different approach to open spaces and, precisely because of this, help students to feel connected to their school. 

The central design concept provides for the school complex to blend in with the surrounding landscape, for the trees to be preserved in their entirety and for the brook to be incorporated into the design. 

Since the provision of outdoor sports facilities is ensured by the construction of a new 4-court sports hall with outdoor sports areas in the immediate vicinity, the usage requirements for the schoolyard areas can be lessened in favour of retaining existing vegetation structures. 


School playgrounds faced with growing tasks 

The change in learning and teaching concepts and all-day child care programmes is also affecting the function and significance of school playgrounds. Children and young people spend a significant amount of time on the school grounds. It is not only a place where they can engage in physical activity to offset sitting all day and to reduce stress, but also a place where young adolescents can practise social skills and develop a sense of community. There needs to be enough space to romp around and playground equipment that promotes coordination and motor skills, but spaces to retreat, relax and explore nature are just as important. Places that make children and young people feel at home and provide them with a sense of identity. 


Construction phase 

After two years of planning, landscaping work begins in spring 2017, while the building is still undergoing renovation. Numerous amendments and extensions to the planning during the construction phase, unforeseen difficulties caused by damaged building fabric and the high water table, as well as the immense time pressure pose major challenges for the entire planning team. The effort pays off. While the existing façade is hardly changed, the interior is being transformed into an ultra-modern school with exceptionally spacious rooms and state-of-the-art technical equipment. 

The open spaces of the former conference centre are completely cleared and redesigned for school used. Existing trees can be preserved to provide natural shade. Robust trough planters, seating elements and wooden decks made from solid steel and FSC-certified hardwood are striking design elements custom-designed for this site. 

The special location and building structure of the ISGY allows for a wide variety of open spaces to be created around the gut-renovated existing building - nestled in the natural landscape - to meet the diverse needs of both students and teachers. 


South-facing terraces 

On the south side, spacious terraces with umbrella-shaped trees and seating platforms directly adjoin the glass façades of the school hall, cafeteria and function room, thus connecting the indoor and outdoor spaces. The sheltered cafeteria terrace faces south, with a view of the lush green foliage of trees. 

The art rooms are also located on the ground floor, facing the brook, with direct access to outdoor work spaces. They are ideal places to carry out creative projects and work with natural materials. The garden is transformed into an exhibition space for numerous works of art, which are presented hanging in the trees or along the banks of the brook. 


Small playground as a retreat 

The largely enclosed inner courtyard of the school complex is designed as a "green classroom". Areas planted with evergreen grasses, flowering shrubs and widely spaced multi-stemmed small trees, bordered by long seatwalls, create a recreational area with a serene atmosphere in the immediate vicinity of the library. Teachers and students alike appreciate the intimacy and good acoustics of the courtyard, which is therefore often used as an outdoor podium and meeting space. 


Large playground for sports and recreational activities  

The design of the playground in the west incorporates the finger-like vegetation structure of the former car park and enhances it with seatwalls to structure the large open space. This produces niches and subspaces with play and sports facilities that can be used in a variety of ways. 

Especially in the context of all-day childcare, table tennis tables and streetball courts are important exercise facilities that can be used by all age groups as well as girls and boys alike. In the equipment shed, the students will also find play equipment and materials for the "active break", which can be used on the large open spaces. 

Numerous studies investigating children's motor skills show that young people find it increasingly difficult to keep their balance, stand on one leg or walk backwards. The sense of balance is crucial for walking, running, standing or sitting safely. A low-ropes course carefully set among the trees encourages children to balance and helps to improve their sense of balance in a playful way. 

In consultation with the sports department, a 6-metre bouldering wall with overhang elements and a slackline facility are being designed. They are also to be used within the framework of physical education lessons. Climbing and slacklining are two highly challenging trend sports that are popular with children and young people Climbing is a great full-body workout, improves motor skills, and at the same time encourages social interaction. 

In addition to specific play and sports activities, open spaces that are partly secluded and shielded from view are just as important. The ISGY’s spacious grounds, overgrown with numerous shrubs, provide plenty of space for playing tag and hide-and-seek. 


The brook as an element that helps to create a sense of identity

The school administration plays an important role in the successful implementation of the design concept by agreeing to the plan to have the school grounds enclosed only up to the banks of the brook on each side. This allows the riparian zone of the Kernbach brook to be included in the use Sitting steps in the embankment now lead down to the water and provide a view of the unspoilt nature of the brook’s alluvial plain. The watercourse itself is shallow and can be used for a variety of activities, especially in summer. The steps by the brook soon become the students’ favourite places. On hot days, the children wade through the water or enjoy the shade provided by the trees. They make and build things with natural materials they have found. 

The concept seems to have worked. The students have quickly settled into their new school and have made good use of the open spaces. The special magic of this place is also felt by the young people. They have embraced the Kernbach brook as an element that helps to create a sense of identity from the very beginning. For the opening ceremony, they rewrote Peter Fox’s well-known song “Haus am See” (House on the Lake): "Haus am Bach" (House by the Brook) is what they call their school.

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