German Architecture

Going Against the Grain

Schmuttertal_Gymnasium_Copyright_StefanMueller-Naumann
In 2016 the Schmuttertal school in Bavaria also won the 2016 prize for sustainable construction, awarded by the German Sustainable Building Council. This year, it won the German Prize for Architecture. Source: DGNB / Stefan Müller-Naumann

When Schmuttertal, a high school in the Bavarian village of Diedorf, inaugurated its brand new building, it wasn’t long before graffiti turned up in the locker room. Kids will be kids, of course – but the school’s principal was incensed. Over the intercom he made it clear how despicable it was for them to have vandalized the new space. And a few days later the graffiti was gone, scrubbed clean by the students themselves. Two years later it hasn’t happened again and perhaps now it never will, considering the building has been awarded Germany’s most prestigious architectural prize.

“An incredibly intelligent, subtle structure,” is how Markus Allmann, the architect who led the jury for 2017’s German Prize for Architecture, describes it. “Nothing can be taken away, nothing added, everything has its meaning.”

Architects Florian Nagler and Hermann Kaufmann won €30,000 for the design, on the outskirts of a scenic nature park. The building echoes its surroundings, as it is built from sustainable wood and built according to architectural traditions of the region, with four structures, each three storeys high, encircling a schoolyard. But what the jury loved most was the Schmuttertal high school’s understated aesthetic, breaking convention by refusing to be eye-catching while not being so contrived as to be minimalist.

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