Wolfgang Rossbauer | Architekt
Neubau ETH House of Science,
Bamiyan University, Afghanistan. "Hofhaus".


Venturing Permanence:
ETH House of Science Bamiyan, Afghanistan. Courtyard.

Facts: Open Competition „Luftschloss - 150 years ETH Zurich” | 1st Prize | 2004 | Execution 2004 - 2008 | Costs excl. Sponsoring and Salaries CHF 850’000 | Usable Area: 650 m2 | -> Competition Project, see also: Plans&Text Students' Centre in Kandahar.

Architecture: Ivica Brnic, Florian Graf, Wolfgang Rossbauer (Brnic, Graf, Rossbauer Architects, Zurich) | Building Physics Prof. Dr. Bruno Keller, Stephan Rutz (ETH Zurich) | Structural Engineer Prof. Dr. Joseph Schwartz | Construction ManagerAsef Alemyar, Herat and Rorschacherberg.

Client: ETH Zurich | Representation Client:Prof. Dr. Mario Fontana, D-BAUG (IBK) | Committee for further collaboration: Prof. Dr. Olaf Kübler, President emeritus ETH Zurich | President Committee Jubilee: Prof. Dr. Meinrad Eberle, Corporate Communications.

Competition for the ETH jubilee.

With the 150th anniversary of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich in the year 2005, a competition was advertised for the faculties of Architecture and Civil Engineering. The requirement was to design any kind of building on the terrace in front of the ETH’s main site, which would represent these two departments. The building was planned to be a temporary installation during the festive period in April/May 2005. Out of all submitted 49 projects, our proposal, code-named: „Polynational” was nominated for execution.

The unusual aspect of this competition is certainly the simultaneous demands: The physical architectural project and the content, its programmatic use, were to be formulated. Our project does not transmit the meaning of architecture using a purely demonstrative object, like a festive pavilion, which tries to abstract „real“ architectural demands like utility, construction, form and present them as a model to the public. Our aim is to show architecture „in action“, acting with all the fundamental human needs. Incredibly, half a million Swiss Francs (original budget) would barely cover the costs for building and maintaining a pavilion on the ETH’s Polyterrasse. The ETH’s main building, a hallmark of the city of Zürich, is itself a „Luftschloss” (=„castle-in-the-air”). Its vast functional space provides room for an array of possible events. In a developing country, or one in the process of reconstruction, the utilisation of this sum will be multiplied by a large factor. Our suggestion was therefore to invest the money in a sustainable way in a country in development, and through that to initiate a world-wide exchange of knowledge and information with the ETH.

We were planning the construction of a small building on a campus of the Bamiyan University, Afghanistan. The building will function as a platform (politically neutral and without religious affiliation) which would facilitate the exchange of knowledge between Afghan and Swiss students, and which would offer the possibility of social meeting for the students. Common projects or seminars in Afghanistan will be a plan to strive towards (a committee for the exchange was already founded, including politicians of both countries, professors of both universities and students) that is, to foster a long-term relationship between the Afghan University and the ETH. It has been so far planned that the students will develop projects for the reconstruction of parts of the city, study new technologies of building construction, hydraulic engineering to improve the local water utilities, and research on agricultural problems. ETH has the opportunity to explore the still „open“ field of architecture in Afghanistan first hand. At the same time, the advantage for Afghan University would be to have a leading consultant by its side.

Swiss public was included in our plans: By rendering our project accessible through both an installation and exhibition our concept was communicated. The installation took place on the Polyterrasse of the ETH, in which construction posts were set up to demarcate the volume to be built in Afghanistan; a copy of the original pre-construction site. A further exhibition in the lobby of the main ETH foyer also was open to the public.

Exhibition at the ETH Zurich: Information Board, Construction Posts (on the "Polyterrasse") and a Model (Vestibule).


A Courtyard in Bamiyan.

In collaboration with Bamiyan’s recently reopened university, the functional program was worked out: a large auditorium (120m2), a library with internet facilities (80m2) and a laboratory space(80m2). Smaller spaces are planned for security, technical facilities and micro-apartments for guests. The plans supplement the University of Bamiyan’s existing buildings. They have been drawn up in such a way that the buildings will remain highly practical even if their designated use is changed.

Bamiyan is situated at a high-altitude and experiences low temperatures and strong sunlight. An energy concept focused on heating has been designed based on a simple spacial system. After having researched the climate and cultural traditions in the region, we have come up with a long, south-facing building fronted by an imposing reception area, a courtyard. Behind the building a garden is planned, allowing room for any future extensions.


Situation Winter (direct radiation) - Situation Summer (shadow niche)

A resilient brick wall - a homogenous combination of shock-absorbing cob bricks in the core of the wall and fired bricks on the outside surface - and a temperature-regulating system of double-glazed windows (2 meters distance) are designed to produce a comfortable temperature inside the building. Apertures in the external facade are fitted with highly insulated windows that nevertheless let through maximum sunlight. These windows ensure that as much sun as possible comes into the building during the winter. In summer they are opened, though those in shade (internal windows) at the bottom of the facade are kept closed to keep out the wind and ensure that cooling energy is preserved within the building.

All work was being carried out by local workers using technologies and practices that are rooted in the local culture - Only few technical equipments were imported: solar systems, windows, interior equipment like computers.

The inauguration was in fall 2006, the academic use started in spring 2007.

First Floor (Auditorium)

Ground Floor (Courtyard, Foyer, Classrooms, Toilets, Guest Rooms)