A State-Of-The-Art School Springs Up In A Swiss Forest

The Rudolf Steiner school near Lausanne
The Rudolf Steiner school near Lausanne
Géraldine Schonenberg

CRISSIER — Not far from a highway turnoff near the Swiss city of Lausanne, there is a wooded enclave surrounded by a national forest. On a slice of these lands — around 70 acres of woods, agricultural fields and parks — the pupils of the Bois Genoud private school are enjoying themselves in complete freedom.

Because not far from a small handful of other constructions — such as Le Castel, a late 18th century house transformed into an organic restaurant — a school has sprung up in the most bucolic of settings that is a very different example of state-of-the-art educational architecture.

The Rudolf Steiner school complex is a series of prefabricated lodges spread around in such a way that each structure sits in the midst of a certain type of plant. It gives the place an old-fashioned Little House on the Prairie kind of feeling, which also allows it to fully realize the philosophical and educational precepts linked to school.

A direct relationship with nature is one of those fundamental ideas. The single-story buildings on campus are an attempt to fulfill a different version of 21st-century architecture, one in which pupils would are not disturbed in their learning.

The school facility was completely redesigned by the Lausanne-based office Localarchitecture. One of its lodges, intended for the 14- to 18 year-old students, marks the first phase of its new youth. The three associates — Manuel Bieler, Antoine Robert-Grandpierre and Laurent Saurer — are best known for such works as the Saint-Loup Chapel, an audacious origami-like building made of wood, or the roof of the Renens Market, a concrete canopy pierced by trees.

The concept of atmosphere is at the heart of the architects’ work, says Robert-Grandpierre. “A building’s charismatic presence rains down upon a place’s atmosphere,” the architect says. “This is mainly what we’re trying to accomplish with this project.”

Educational symbiosis

This lodge, made of structural wood, was built in just over five months, a record for such a large building, and was operational at the start of the 2012 school year. It fits elegantly in this piece of land, in harmony with both the existing units and its natural setting.

The site’s location, next to high-voltage power lines and a highway, determined the shape of the place. “We conceived a passive solar design,” explains Manuel Bieler. “There’s a real reflection around energy in this project: the lodge is closed at the back to protect it from noise and cold.The entirely glazed façade opens towards the south, which enables passive heating from the sun. During summer, the passageways, which are sort of hanging balconies, serve as a natural solar protection when the sun is at its highest point.” The architect also notes that during the cold of winter, when the area is foggy, extra heating is produced by a heat pump and by solar cells that cover the roofing.

Concerning the spatial organization, the architects did not set up anything for internal movement. To get from one class to another, the pupils must go out into the open air. Each room has direct access to the outside. This absence of hierarchy in the layout follows one of the founding educational principals, where no distinction is made between younger and older classes.

Bieler says that the three-story lodge where the classrooms are extended with large balconies, separated by sliding bay windows, creates open teaching spaces to use when the weather is warm.

“The passageways play a role in the pedagogical process, in the energy distribution and in the architecture,” he explains.

The fact that people can access the building through several entrances mimics the campus organization itself, which allows access through the Castel, the car park or even through the nearby train station.

Imagining a private school such as the Bois Genoud allowed the architects to express their creativity, more than they might have been permitted with a public institution. Antoine Robert-Grandpierre explains the unique opportunity to innovate. “Conceiving this school gave us the possibility to develop another way of approaching a teaching space, open in nature.”

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"The Truest Hypocrisy" - The Russia-NATO Clash Seen From Moscow

Russia has decided to cut off relations with the Western military alliance. But Moscow says it was NATO who really wanted the break based on its own internal rationale.

NATO chief Stoltenberg and Russian Foregin Minister Lavrov

Russian Foreign Ministry/TASS via ZUMA
Pavel Tarasenko and Sergei Strokan

MOSCOW — The Russian Foreign Ministry's announcement that the country's permanent representation to NATO would be shut down for an indefinite period is a major development. But from Moscow's viewpoint, there was little alternative.

These measures were taken in response to the decision of NATO on Oct. 6 to cut the number of personnel allowed in the Russian mission to the Western alliance by half. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the removal of accreditations was from eight employees of the Russian mission to NATO who were identified as undeclared employees of Russian intelligence." We have seen an increase in Russian malicious activity for some time now," Stoltenberg said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry called NATO's expulsion of Russian personnel a "ridiculous stunt," and Stoltenberg's words "the truest hypocrisy."

In announcing the complete shutdown in diplomacy between Moscow and NATO, the Russian Foreign Ministry added: "The 'Russian threat' is being hyped in strengthen the alliance's internal unity and create the appearance of its 'relevance' in modern geopolitical conditions."

The number of Russian diplomatic missions in Brussels has been reduced twice unilaterally by NATO in 2015 and 2018 - after the alliance's decision of April 1, 2014 to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between Russia and NATO in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea. Diplomats' access to the alliance headquarters and communications with its international secretariat was restricted, military contacts have frozen.

Yet the new closure of all diplomatic contacts is a perilous new low. Kommersant sources said that the changes will affect the military liaison mission of the North Atlantic alliance in Moscow, aimed at promoting the expansion of the dialogue between Russia and NATO. However, in recent years there has been no de facto cooperation. And now, as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has announced, the activities of the military liaison mission will be suspended. The accreditation of its personnel will be canceled on November 1.

NATO told RIA Novosti news service on Monday that it regretted Moscow's move. Meanwhile, among Western countries, Germany was the first to respond. "It would complicate the already difficult situation in which we are now and prolong the "ice age," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters.

"Lavrov said on Monday, commenting on the present and future of relations between Moscow and the North Atlantic Alliance, "If this is the case, then we see no great need to continue pretending that any changes will be possible in the foreseeable future because NATO has already announced that such changes are impossible.

The suspension of activities of the Russian Permanent Mission to NATO, as well as the military liaison and information mission in Russia, means that Moscow and Brussels have decided to "draw a final line under the partnership relations of previous decades," explained Andrei Kortunov, director-general of the Russian Council on Foreign Affairs, "These relations began to form in the 1990s, opening channels for cooperation between the sides … but they have continued to steadily deteriorate over recent years."

Kortunov believes the current rupture was promoted by Brussels. "A new strategy for NATO is being prepared, which will be adopted at the next summit of the alliance, and the previous partnership with Russia does not fit into its concept anymore."

The existence and expansion of NATO after the end of the Cold War was the main reason for the destruction of the whole complex of relations between Russia and the West. Today, Russia is paying particular attention to marking red lines related to the further steps of Ukraine's integration into NATO. Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov previously stated this, warning that in response to the alliance's activity in the Ukrainian direction, Moscow would take "active steps" to ensure its security.

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