Stiftung Vivendra

Dielsdorf, Switzerland
L3P Architekten

Stiftung Vivendra

Preserve the past and build the future

Learning, living, working - these are the three words which accurately describe “Stiftung Vivendra”. The establishment was founded in 1965 by a parents’ association as “Stiftung Schulheim Dielsdorf für cerebral Gelähmte“ (facility for cerebrally paralyzed persons). In 1970, the Dielsdorf location with a remedial pedagogic school, a boarding school, therapies and a home for adults was opened. In 2011, the name was changed into “Stiftung Vivendra“. This did not affect the objective of the institution, namely the care for cerebrally (“concer-ning the cerebrum“) handicapped persons of every age - from the baby in the integrative day-care facility for children to the group home for old people. The facades of the nucleus of the foundation at Dielsdorf have been extensively renovated recently. The result is impressive because of durable and future-oriented solutions, but preserving the architectural roots at the same time.

The four volumetrically subtly erected building components A to D were built in the transitional period from the 1960s to the 1970s. They showed typical features of that time, such as for example the emphasizing of the horizontal by strikingly designed window bands or recessed wall bases as well as of the vertical in the form of the staircase “loopholes“ at the front sides. In the 1980s, a first rather provisional facade renovation was carried out: as a contribution to minimizing deficits in terms of energy efficiency, an approx. 5 cm thick (or to be more precise, thin) rock wool insulation was installed and cladded with fibre-cement boards.

To change this unsatisfactory condition, the planning for a general facade renovation was started in 2013 by the renowned architecture office L3P Architekten (Regensberg near Zurich) managed by Dipl.-Ing. Arch. FH Mareike Beumer. Following this professional planning, the facades of three (at first house C, then B, then A) of the four buildings in total were completely renovated in the time from autumn of 2015 to summer of 2016. House D will follow at a later date not yet defined, as extensive measures in the interior have to be implemented there before and further details must be clarified.

At the general renovation, quite a number of challenges had to be overcome. A peculiarity was that the load-bearing capacity of the wall - a type of steel frame construction with infill - was statically insufficient. That is why the anchoring and the load transfer of the new building shell had to be effected via the ceilings. This task was performed by means of consoles with angle brackets, which were adjustable in order to level deviating facade depths at the same time. These consoles formed the basis for an intelligent facade construction with an optimal insulation in terms of energy efficiency (with which existing massive thermal bridges were also eliminated) towards the wall and a multi-layered design towards the outside: on a lathing providing a rear-ventilation space of 4 cm, the “KNAUF AQUAPANEL Cement Board Outdoor“ (portland cement and aggregates, reinforced on both sides and with edge reinforcement) was screwed, and ceramic tiles were laid on these boards.

The tiles supplied by the well-known architectural ceramics brand AGROB BUCHTAL were specially produced for this project in the Buchtal factory at Schwarzenfeld. Before deciding in favour of this cladding material, the architect Mareike Beumer from the office L3P even had inspected historic tile facades at Hamburg. Of the numerous advantages of the proven, versatile building material of ceramics, above all its sustainability, durability, aesthetics and absolute colour and light fastness were relevant to her.

At Dielsdorf, these aspects come in useful in several respects: the building ensemble is embedded in a park-like environment in which many guests and occupants enjoy relaxing or inspiring walks. This plurality of human characters and the diversity of “Stiftung Vivendra” also were to be reflected in the facade. Therefore, it was important to avoid a monotonous impression and to find a look instead which conveys discreet charms. In simple words, the intention was to create a “park for the senses” with a touch of poetry. This ambitious objective is supported by the facade ceramics in several ways thanks to its three-dimensional shaping, glossy glaze and naturally changing colouring: depending on the incidence of light and the position, the building shells convey alternating effects, impressions and gentle reflections subtly catching one’s eye when strolling through the park. The intended unobtrusive diversity is also underlined by the fact that the two formats of 6 x 30 cm and 10 x 30 cm are not arranged in a strictly regular order but in changing constellations, so that a discreet rhythm is created. In addition, the two colours of the facade ceramics corresponding with the environment make the buildings appear less voluminous and rather filigree. An elementary contribution to this is also made by the horizontal laying of the tiles, which is continued even around the external corners of the buildings and balconies without being interrupted by other materials such as metal rails or the like. This was possible thanks to exact mitre cuts which - just as all the facade construction works - were carried out by Rolf Schlagenhauf AG (CH-8706 Meilen). This consistent and homogeneous solution lends the buildings a sovereign monolithic physical form and, in addition, is a reminiscence of the architectural roots by emphasizing the horizontal.

The same applies to the strikingly bordered windows, which extend over the long sides of the buildings as prominent band. To accentuate this effect and to make use of the third dimension there as well, the depth of the reveals was intentionally increased to 50 cm by the construction now further projecting. This is not only advantageous on hot summer days but - depending on the time of day and the position of the sun - gives rise to additional plays of light and shadow on the facade. As in the case of the external corners of the building, importance was attached to great care in the details here again: special frames with raised edges (approx. 5 cm) visually emphasize the rows of windows, perfectly border the cut sides of the tiles and, in addition, also hide the ventilation outlets (approx. 25 x 30 mm) without impairing their functionality.

Competent planning, careful processing and high-quality materials have led to an overall result which is convincing in every respect: a stable, intelligent construction is hidden behind the building shell conveying an almost futuristic impression. This successful interplay offers the best conditions for durability, cost-effectiveness and lasting aesthetics - thus following a simple but clear definition according to which “architecture is environment built by humans for humans“.

Photographer: Adriano Faragulo