A school that gives pupils more time in the fresh air

White’s proposal for a new school in the German city of Mannheim has received an honourable mention in a German architectural competition.

The concept for the new school is based on research on learning and physical activity. To give the children the best conditions for learning, the outdoor environment is considered as important as the indoor environment and gives the school day a pleasurable rhythm of concentration, play, rest and movement.


The building is constructed with non-toxic and natural materials.

The school, a wood construction, has a clear design. Its shape provides optimum lighting and contributes to reduced electricity consumption. A central courtyard provides the school’s interior with daylight and all classrooms face small, quiet courtyards. These are also used for outdoor play by the smallest children.

Based around a central courtyard, the school’s structure creates shortcuts to its various premises increasing the children’s time in the fresh air. A pergola-like wood structure forms beautiful rooms for movement and play. It includes swings, ropes and climbing frames, as well as technical functions for solar shading or energy supply.

Regardless of weather or number of children, the outdoor environment invites to play all year round. To cover all needs, the outdoor environments have been designed as three different zones that offer everything from climbing walls, hills and tunnels to quiet and secluded spaces that feel accessible, safe and secure. There is something to stimulate every sense in the zones.

A green roof is planted with various grasses and herbs. It also features electric panels and an allotment home to both birdhouses and insect hotels. To promote biodiversity – and natural sciences education – a selection of species that attracts pollinations is planted. Different tree species are planted in the courtyard and climbers can grow freely across the pergola in the quiet zone.

The concept for the new school is based on four different fields of research in physical activity and health, physical activity and learning, outdoor learning and psychosocial development.


The proposal has been developed together with German collaboration partner Günther Hermann Architekten, with whom we are currently working on the Campus Feuerbach project in Stuttgart.

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