The cube, Amphitheatre, Strasbourg (France)


The cube, Amphitheatre, Strasbourg (France) 

The Haute École de Strasbourg, a protestant humanist establishment created in 1538 by Jean Sturm, is the birthplace of the local University. In the opinion of its founders, a city owed its reputation as  much to the intellectual work it produced as to the goods it manufactured. 






Architect: Claude Bucher, Contractor: Wiedemann et Fils SARL 
Technique: VMZINC® Perforated panels, Surface aspect: ANTHRA-ZINC®


Today, the Haute École is known as the Jean Sturm Gymnasium. Although in everyday English the word gymnasium generally refers to a place dedicated to practising sport, in this case it is used in the Germanic sense to designate a high school, a private secondary establishment for pupils prior to entering university.



Having been damaged by several fi res, the Jean Sturm Gymnasium occupies a complex of several buildings in the city centre that were rebuilt in the 1870s, recognisable for its use of stone, especially sandstone. The new auditorium was built at the heart of one of the school’s courtyards, on the site of the former lavatories. It has the form of a cube tipped fi ve degrees towards the empty space of the courtyard. A choice made by architect Claude Bucher and the project owner CPES (*), in consultation with the architect from the French architectural review board (Les Bâtiments de France), supervising all interventions at heritage sites on behalf of the State. The upper edge of the cube is aligned with the fi rst fl oor of the church that clos es the fourth side of the courtyard. The use of an almost black zinc to cover the entire volume creates a powerful contrast, clearly distinguishing the contemporary parts from the historic parts. The architect opted for absolute monolithism: doors are covered with zinc, the windows of the rooms - two amphitheatres, a music room, a room for body language classes and various technical rooms - are concealed behind metal panels and a large ventilation grid.



Perforations in the zinc ensure provision of light and natural air, transforming the metal envelope into a breathing skin. The same regular perforation pattern is applied on the walls and roof, which brazenly acts as the fi fth facade, visible from the classrooms and corridors of  the school. The cube seems like a mysterious casket, a black box containing all knowledge. (*) Strasbourg Protestant Council of Education, represented by Mr. Paul Buret.