On August 21, 2015, a glorious end-of-summer day, the International School of Berne held its official Ground Breaking Ceremony for the new ISBerne Campus, scheduled for completion in December of 2016. The day was a momentous occasion as this project has been in development from anywhere between 5 -12 years, depending on whom you ask. Many players have been involved in moving this project forward, and, when fate threw challenge after challenge into the path of progress, much of the progress was made simply on faith. The excitement to see this long-envisioned project finally come to fruition was palpable.
The Ground Breaking Ceremony followed the Swiss tradition of laying the foundation stone, complete with the customary box filled with mementos of the day and well wishes for the future of ISBerne. Mr. Andreas Rickenbacher, Minister of Economic Affairs for the Canton of Bern, presided over the event. Rickenbacher was the school’s most prominent champion, playing a key role in campaigning for cantonal financial support for the construction of a new campus.
The Canton of Bern needs an impressive International School in the asset portfolio it presents to prospective incoming foreign enterprises. ISBerne, though strong in academics, has an ageing campus that can no longer support enrolment growth. In the end, the Parliament vote granted financial support. However, the school community itself still faces fundraising requirements of CHF one million. This is not a small sum, but for a school that has proven its worth time and time again, comparatively, this requirement is far less daunting!
Alongside Rickenbacher, the community of Muri-Guemligen did their part to clear the way for ISBerne, as evidenced by a referendum that supported a rezoning that would allow the school to stay in the community. The Mayor, Thomas Hanke, and Rolf Dahler, President of the Burgergemeinde, were both present at the ceremony to share in the celebration, as were Thomas Frutiger of Frutiger AG, who will be handling the construction, and members of Burckhardt Partner AG, architects of the project.
Burckhardt Partner AG has now finalized the design for a truly unique building that melds both a modern and warm ambiance. The plans for the campus reflect and blend with the natural surroundings of green fields and hillsides, with the use of an exposed wood construction, local stone and ample windows that will flood the interior with light. The windows will open onto the surrounding grounds and give all classrooms direct outdoor access with a lovely view.
In true Swiss style, the campus is designed to be efficient. Multi-purpose spaces have been specifically planned and optimized to promote a sense of community, a prominent example of which will be found at the heart of the building where a large, open plan, multipurpose space will serve as a dining hall, conference space, and performance area.
Swiss efficiency equates to ecological responsibility, and the new campus will be a model of ecological forward thinking. For example, surplus heating from the nearby HACO facility will be piped to the campus for heating. The long flat roof will contain solar panels for electricity, and any surplus will be fed back into the grid. All details of construction will be of the most up-to-date ecological materials and meet or exceed LEEDS Gold Standard requirements.
It would be hypocritical for ISBerne to do anything less than strive for the highest standards. Its students are encouraged to explore options, test limits, and to be conscientious of our environment and each other. It is only logical that the school should do the same while constructing a campus destined to support such an ideology.
As a result of this forward thinking, and currently living within the limitations of out-dated technology, ISBerne has ensured that the new campus will be prepared to support the inevitable increase in use of online applications, distance learning, and the 1-to-1 computer initiative slated for introduction in 2017 by installing full fibre-optic connectivity.
This new campus may further expand the catchment area of ISBerne. Given the ease of access by both car and rail, the current catchment area for ISBerne is already surprisingly large, with students coming in from the cantons of Fribourg, Neuchâtel, and Solothurn, and numbers from these cantons will invariably increase if ISBerne launches its proposed shuttle system for groups of students in outlying areas.
With solid backing by the Canton of Berne, the local community of Muri- Gümligen, and its parent company Pansophic Learning, a new campus finally on the way, and room for growth, the school is poised on the threshold of a very bright future and has very good cause to celebrate!
Photographer: Daniel Rihs