The Sonderschule Finsterwalde was won as a design competition while Lempka Architects founding principal and owner, Patrick Lempka, worked for Architecturburo W. u M. Schlegtendal in Nurnberg, Germany. Patrick served as the lead designer on the project.
The individuals attending this school have varying levels of learning disabilities as well as the potential of having physical disabilities. Task retention from one day to the next can be challenging. Based on this premise it was decided early on in the design process that perhaps the best approach was to design a building that was legible in plan, clear in form, and responded to the program's functional requirements.
A u-shaped plan evolved based partially on a restrictive site with shared functions forming the connection between the two wings. The gymnasium component is pulled forward to create a sense of enclosure for the entry while simultaneously allowing for good evening access for community use.
The main entry is created and reinforced by a triangular "divot" cut into the building mass. The "divot" also allows the entry and circular vehicle drop-off to anchor into one another strengthening the connection between the building and the site.
Building materials were chosen to complement the roof forms and with a focus on durability. The roof is titanium-zinc, the exterior walls are kalksandstein masonry with enameled aluminum panels and integral window shading devices.