Hallstatt Technical College
Four pavilions to extend classroom and workshop buildings
Carpentry, boat building and instrument making are just three examples of the woodworking skills taught at the federal higher technical college (HTL/HTBLA) in the southern district of Hallstatt, a village in the Austrian Salzkammergut region. As varied as the 140-year-old institute's course offerings was the space allocation that had to be taken into account during the required extension, realised on behalf of the public body maintaining the institute, Austria's Bundesimmobiliengesellschaft (or federal real-estate organisation, BIG), starting in 2011. The school complex was extended in four stages, each carefully reflecting the individual position and utilisation of the new additions. Consequently, four pavilion-like buildings were created that sensibly capture the spatial distribution of existing stock and, in doing so, further develop the surrounding village pattern on a sympathetic scale.
Despite its larger fame as a crowded tourist spot, owing much of its popularity to its world heritage status and picture postcard prettiness, Hallstatt, in the Austrian Salzkammergut region, has a rich history as an educational centre of distinction. The village's southern district of Lahn is home to the federal higher technical institute, or HTBLA, with its origins dating back some 140 years. The students here acquire, through both theoretical and practical approaches, a solid foundation of woodworking skills that cover carpentry, boat building and instrument making. As varied as the acclaimed college's course offerings was the space allocation that had to be taken into account during the required extension, which was to be realised on behalf of the public body maintaining the institute, Austria's Bundesimmobiliengesellschaft (or federal real-estate organisation, BIG).
New classrooms and an upgraded library were required to supplement the principal building at the village entrance. The brief also included the creation of space for practical instruction, as well as a canteen and timber yard five hundred metres south of the workshops. In their winning entry to the 2009 competition, riccione architekten built upon the spatial distribution of existing stock and elaborated on the concept in a way coherent with and sensitive to existing village planning. As a result, four pavilions were conceived, each sympathetically complementing and augmenting the complex of college buildings as dictated by utilisation and the environs.
In a first step the timber yard was realised in 2011, taking the shape of an oversized wooden chest. A compact concrete core, performing the twin duties of reinforcing the structure as well as housing the fire-proof paint warehouse, is the only exception to a construction otherwise based purely on plain wood framing. This was then followed by a three-storey extension of the workshop buildings, edging towards the lakeside. Sitting across the main building, the cubature annexe introduces a reinvigorated view to the dominant 1980s original. The top two storeys' cantilevered steel-and-timber construction overhangs a practical outside area used by the boat builders. Meanwhile, the interior provides instrument makers and restorers with bright rooms and a view across Lake Hallstatt.
Completing the workshop area is the detached flat-roof building accommodating the canteen and carpentry shop. The concrete-timber hybrid shape is made all the more unique by the green sheet metal enclosure on the hall’s roof, concealing the glulam timber structure. A patio, outside staircase and generous glazing are instrumental in opening up the building to the meadow. The new build, devised as a parkside pavilion, both acknowledges the qualities of its environs and makes maximum use of the available outdoor space. A water feature, designed by architectural artist Roman Signer, lends the finishing touches to this premium open space, nestled between lake and mountain.
Elsewhere, the new annexe to the original principal building fulfils a rather different function, with its cantilevered design aiming to create a sheltered arrival and meeting point. The library at ground level, with its large expanse of glass, is indicative of the overriding theme: this is a place to learn. Consequently, the concrete base at ground level provides a proper foundation to the four lecture rooms realised in solid timber. A small bridge effortlessly unites the old and the new.
A sleek brutalism
A distinctive feature common to all four sites is the optimal propinquity and distance between the newly created neighbourhoods. In a way, these buildings are not annexes – nor extensions – in the classical sense, but rather autonomous objects tapping into and, sensibly, further developing the surrounding village pattern in its natural permeability. The workshop area achieves this by adding smaller auxiliary facilities to the existing building stock, thereby defusing the original's burliness and weight. A further shared characteristic is the pragmatic attitude towards material and detail, highlighting the present state of how things are, the way they are. Nothing ever feels smoothed or laboured; everything is achieved with measured architectural restraint. The interiors are defined by béton brut and unconcealed solid timber walls. Likewise, the installations are exposed, as is the structural design.
Although the new component parts were designed to be autonomous, they remain interconnected in their architectonic configuration. A waft of classically modern lakeside architectural style reminiscent of an exhilarating summer retreat surrounds the buildings, with perhaps a hint of Plischke in the air. Adding to this inimitable interaction are the elements of steel pillars, railings and girders (all lacquered white), as well as the drop arm awnings elegantly shielding the buildings from the sun. Light glazed, rough-sawn spruce boards form the façades while the windows appear slender in their aluminium profile framing.
All this culminates in a novel, light-hearted approach of building with timber, blending into the surroundings both in terms of dimension and proportion. In doing so, it livens up the otherwise somewhat sullen place by injecting it with breezy lightness. This isn't about building by numbers or in a pompous, heave-ho way. It is rather about building on the small scale, providing a response well attuned to the given requirements and within the economical means. This has resulted in a scattered ensemble of four structures full of allure and character. However individual they are in their typology, construction and architectural expression, they are tightly interrelated in their aesthetic impression.
Facts and figures
Object: Expansion of HTL/HTBLA Hallstatt Technical College
Owner: Bundesimmobiliengesellschaft BIG
Architects / Overall planning: riccione architekten, Innsbruck, Austria
Structural analysis: Brunnsteiner, Natters
Facade construction design: Thomas Mennel, gbd Projects, Dornbirn
Building services: Pratzner, Jenbach; Haslinger & Gstrein, Innsbruck; TAS/Kainberger, Leonding
Building supervision: arge ateliers, Gmunden / Building engineer: Ramsimmer
Graphic Design: Rio Kobayshi, London
Architectural art: Roman Signer
Planning: 07/2009 (competition) – 09/2015
Construction time: 01/2011 – 09/2015
Effective area: 2,988 m² (32,163 sq. ft.)
Hybrid construction: Solid (cross-laminated) timber / Light-weight timber / Timber frame construction / Reinforced concrete / Steel
Façades: Spruce with back ventilation, white varnished