Wolfgang Rossbauer | Architekt
Projekt Studentenzentrum Kandahar, Afghanistan.


Venturing Permanence:
Students' Center in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Windtower.

Facts: Open Competition „Luftschloss - 150 years ETH Zurich” | 1st Prize | 2004 | Execution in Bamiyan as ETH House of Science. -> See also: Plans&Text ETH House of Science Bamiyan

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.

Windtower in Kandahar.

The building is situated on the new university grounds on the northern outskirts of the city of Kandahar. A mosque dating back to the Taliban regime stands to the south of the campus, integrated into the campus for university use. Directly opposite, one can find eleven completed buildings serving instructional and administrative purposes. Ours is the last building in the area, standing a few kilometres away from a rocky wall, functioning as a backdrop. Further expansion of the university grounds is planned in the area behind our building; a strategic centrality to echo its primary function as a university building. The spacial program of the new building shall be: Auditorium (100m2), Café (50m2), Working space (80m2), Micro-apartments for guests.

The necessary criteria for the architectonic form-finding process rely on Kandahar’s distinctive climactic circumstances. The wind blows more-or-less regularly from the southwest and with a force of ca. 3-4 metres/sec, its energy potentially useful to us. The temperature varies from ca. 0°C in the coldest season to approximately 40°C in summer. Humidity is slight, wavering between 20% and 40% on any summer day. The amount of sunlight hours is extremely high, nearing the maximum at all possible.

In response to these local specifications, we have developed a building which comprises of a double-shelled system: a massive and thus energy-saving („Trägheit”) clay brick mantle, and an inner-built, reinforced concrete construction, executed with ca. 30 cm-thick walls to prevent earthquake damage. Due to its temporary use, it will be possible to isolate the building on the inside with a 10 cm-strong straw-clay layer. The building can be constructed easily with regional materials, and by local construction companies.

Both „shells” (layers) are arranged together so that a space emerges, opening-up on the one hand a variety of sojourning possibilities, and on the other a climate-regulating interstice, comparable to a thermos flask.

The stairway stretches along the brick wall in an upward movement, caving it in and continually ridding it of its mass. In this way the stairway narrows the wall and grants it its static sensuality. The reinforced concrete construction retreats away from the brick; the only points of contact occur where the rooms (within the construction) need windows.


Diagram: Cooling Tower and Solar Energy

The building is positioned against the direction of the wind and catches the hot, dry desert air like a traditional windtower. In the above-mentioned interstice, the air presses downwardly and deeply, cooling itself through „evaporation-coldness” over the water basin. Following this, it can then stream upwards and distribute itself throughout the building to cool the rooms. Glass covers close the interstice, now transformed into a kind of isolation space, throughout the colder seasons. One would no longer sojourn in the ground floor foyer, but would probably prefer the residential top floor in winter. Here one can find straw mat covers and solar panels, which (due to Afghanistan’s instable electricity network) provide the building with electricity. It serves a small water pump, among its other functions. This pump heaves water from a stream into a deposit tank positioned on the roof of the building. The water is heated here through solar collectors for daily use. The building will be heated throughout the winter through the use of solar energy sources.


Roof Terrace (Terrace, Technic Room)


First Floor (Guest Rooms)


Third Floor (Offices)


Second Floor (Library)


First Floor (Auditorium)


Ground Floor (Foyer, Cafeteria, Toilets)