SUE Architekten | The „open municipal hall“

Středa, 29. Září 2010 - 2:00
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Five years ago, the market municipality of Ottensheim – a locality with 4,500 inhabitants to the west of Linz – opened an architecture competition for the new municipal centre. Part of the development planning would be implemented immediately, another part later on. Besides the actual plan, the competition raised another issue which was very exciting for our office.

The question was: how can a new centre, a new point of identification be created at such an important and at the same time difficult place, which is not only there for the purposes of municipal administration but also for the multifarious, public and artistic life of Ottensheim. Besides the gentle renovation of the existing „Gusenleitner house“, the competition project foresaw converting the municipal council hall into a multi-purpose hall and placing it as a pavilion in a prominent place on the square in order to have it serve as roofed-over public space. This project fully convinced the jury but did not find the corresponding resonance in parts of the population and its chosen representatives. The so-called forum had to be moved to another place; too much attention was not desired. It was only possible to implement the design of the hall in the space between buildings on Linzer Strasse. The idea was to retain the compelling nature of the project while sparing the existing construction as far as possible.

As already conceived in the original design for the „forum on the square“, the „open municipal hall“ integrates public space into the building. The hall‘s expansive opening onto Linzer Strasse and to the courtyard allows it to serve as a link between street space and arcade courtyard. With open front, inside and outside the building merge. The hall becomes a roofed-over public space. Street, hall and courtyard become a continuum in space and offer a room for celebrations, events and markets. The house is designed so as to allow the halls and free spaces to be visited even aside from the operation of the municipal administration.

The hall, which found no space in the existing building and on the market square, is now located in an extension building on Linzer Strasse. It can be separated into two rooms by a mobile dividing wall in order to make different uses possible. Separating them gives the rooms very different atmospheres: the small hall, which also functions as a wedding location, is defined by textile surfaces; the front-side of this room is decorated by a textile artwork by Beate Luger-Goyer. The big hall is oriented towards the arcade courtyard; the horizontal and vertical wooden lamellas dominate this room and give it sense of motion.

Thus, the conversion links in with the long tradition of the house: this building has already been converted and reformed countless times, the three original mediaeval houses became one overall complex in the sixteenth century, used as a house for the baths at the time in the locality. A further, large conversion took place in the mid 1800s: the house was re-divided into two and the entrance at Wasserberg was sub-divided. After a fire in 1899 the house lost its blind wall in front of the roof truss, the roof was turned into the form it has today, the facade was historically designed in the fashion of the times.

The present construction works and also the extension continue the tradition of this ongoing building. The extension combines with the existing building to form a new, joint whole. The colour, proportions and materials are integrated in the extension and the details find new interpretation. The base cornice of the existing building is continued in the front opening of the hall, the eaves height is maintained. The extension is recognisably an independent, contemporary part of the whole.

The new front components in the existing building project forward like the window openings in the extension, an artistic bracket encompasses the house.

The motto of the conversion was: repair things, do not renew everything, administer care, not a face lift. All usable, existing parts were used again, either in the same or a different place. In this manner, the history of the complex is still perceptible and present in all of the rooms even after the conversion.

The marks of history, e.g. former vaulting structures and glimpses of the mediaeval masonry, can be seen throughout the building. The present conversion has reversed the division of the house, the middle wall that separated the vaulted corridors has been removed, an expansive entrance now opens onto the market square. The staircase was visibly inserted as a new component in the existing building between the two remaining halves of the wagon vaults on the ground floor.

Anyone who walks through the municipal hall with their eyes open will always be able to tell what is new and what is old but at the same time experience an overall harmony, a joint newness. New, supplementary building components are usually visibly integrated into the old building and form an exciting interplay with the existing construction.

Among the numerous surfaces and conversions and installations, we also made some discoveries which we were able to lay open again and restore. An example is the baroque groined vault in the corridor upstairs which can now once again be enjoyed in its full splendour, another is the early ceiling fresco which has been exposed in the room of the head councillor. In two further rooms we discovered old wooden ceilings which have now been restored and exposed to view. In order to comprehend the many different materials, surfaces and room impressions already existing, we reduced the design of the new elements to just a few materials, surfaces and colours.


 Name:  Reconstruction of the municipal centre in Ottensheim, Austria
 Contractor:  Verein zur Förderung der Infrastruktur der Marktgemeinde Ottensheim& CO KG
 Authors:  SUE Architekten ZT KG, 1060 Wien
 Floor area:  980 m2
 Volume:  6892 m3
 Budget:  2,100,000 EUR
 Competition annoucement:  2005
 Completion:  01/2009 - 05/2010
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