Zollverein School of Management and Design / SANAA


Architects: Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa / SANAA
Client: Zollverein School
Location: Essen,
Construction start: March 2005
Completed: July 2006
Project architect: Nicole Berganski
Associate architects: Böll & Krabel
Built area: 5.000sqm
Masterplan: Rem Koolhaas, OMA
Landscape: Agence Ter
Photos: Iwan Baan

© Iwan Baan

The Zollverein Design School is located between a historical coalmining factory and a sprawling suburb. The building is a 35 meter cube, which, at the scale of the large neighboring factory buildings, stands in strong contrast to the finer suburban texture. Its intense presence announces the former factory grounds.

© Iwan Baan

Given traditional standards, the building volume might be perceived as too large for its program, an approach which not only has an urban impact, but is also a response to the building’s program. We felt that exceptional ceiling heights were appropriate for the educational spaces, particularly for the studio level that occupies an entire slab of the structure. This undivided production floor is an unusually lofty and fully flexible space, which is enclosed only by external structural walls. These walls, punctured by numerous apertures, filter the light and view from the surrounding factory landscape, softening the transition between exterior and interior.

© Iwan Baan
Cite: Basulto, David. "Zollverein School of Management and Design / SANAA" 28 Mar 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 17 Sep 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=54212>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    1. The building is unimaginative, monotous and simplistic. 2. The building refuse to architectually engage it’s surroundings and vitalize the (troubled) area. 3. I’s “top-down” starchitecure and thus is more preoccupied with enforcing the studios image than solving the issues at hand.

    It’s not good at all.

  2. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    I would be interested to see the masterplan document by OMA (referred to in the credits).
    Perhaps this site is zoned ‘Iconic Starchitecture’?

  3. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    How does water get off the roof?

    I love the building… but it is completely ruinous to the context… almost as if SANAA saw the typical box with triangle roof vernacular alongside and decided that too, was too complex… hmmm

    More than a tad overbearing.

  4. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    They dare to do the things that we all think are beneath us, and get congratulated for it. The irony.

  5. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    SANAA’s architecture is very strong and with no compromise, but incompatible with human life. Acoustic, overheating, accessibility are parts of the redundant mis-functional architecture they produced here and for the Glass Pavilion or the Rolex learning center.
    It brings a fundamental question regarding today’s architectural poetry and its feasibility…
    Whatever, I’ve read something of the heating concept in the Harvard Design Magazine, and it’s green, very contextual and great ! They took the heat from underground old mines and dispatch it within the outer walls, therefore using it both as a water distribution system and as thermal insulation. This is how they were able to build single-piece concrete outer walls.

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      Can you please tell me the year and month of that Harvard Design Magazine? İ am currently doing a study of the design school so i think the magazine should be very useful. Thanks.

  6. Thumb up Thumb down +3

    Forgive me if I sound stupid. But what exactly is the concept/ inspiration for the design? Apart from the factory scale.

  7. Thumb up Thumb down +2

    i’ve been inside this building (couple yrs ago)
    and a lot of people (including myself) couldn’t get out fast enough… bad case of sick-building-syndrome…. something to do with the ventilation i guess…

    but the architecture is great and i like the roof…

  8. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Good architecture gone bad – beautiful to look at but painful for those who have to use it.

  9. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Hey folks!

    I have to analyze this building and just heard, that its not used as school anymore? Does anybody know why? Was it the bad building technic or sth else? Sb said the ventilation is awful. true? We couldnt find out up till now how they get rid of the air in the big room.

    cheers benjamin

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