ECAL Art School – Freedom for Ideas

Renens, Switzerland

A former textile factory offers open, spacious loft structures with USM furniture incorporated in various different ways, supporting diverse ways of working – creating ideal conditions for students in an art and design school. There is freedom for ideas here. 600 young designers from more than 40 countries are studying subjects such as fine arts, photography, film and graphic or industrial design at the prestigious Ecole cantonale d’art de Lausanne (ECAL).The school’s own gallery serves as a platform for presenting student practice and thesis works – and sometimes as a springboard for careers.

The Industrial Charm of a Former Textile Factory

Bernhard Tschumi designed the plans for renovating the original building, in which socks and knitwear used to be manufactured. The Franco-Swiss architect with offices in Paris and New York made a point of preserving the building’s industrial charm, especially in the interior. From the outside, the former factory has been “packaged” a little, concealed behind a second facade of metal gratings and corrugated profiles. A colorful guidance system that defines individual spaces and functions inside also establishes a connection to the outside, as bands of primary colors stretch across the building’s facade.

Communication and Concentration

Tschumi brought lots of light and air inside this large space. He cut in four courtyards, created new spatial relationships and visual references, and gave the school a sense of openness and expansive space. And rightly so, because creativity does not arise out of confinement; it needs space. At the same time, it is always a challenge to structure and tame the “open space” so that the interplay of privacy and exchange, concentration and communication becomes possible. Freedom of movement and encounters are desirable, while options for smaller work groups are just as necessary.

Here, the USM Haller shelves and sideboards selected by the school’s directors provide a significant contribution, offering practical storage space while simultaneously serving as spatially effective elements. They define spatial zones without closing them off – in versatile ways and at every imaginable height.

Even the prestigious reception area for the ECAL was delineated with USM elements. The offices and seminar rooms are also furnished with USM tables. Within this architectural concept, characterized by highly colorful accents, the USM Modular Furniture Haller, executed in black, pure white and pearl gray, exudes a sense of relaxed tranquility and restraint.

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