Deep in the landscape
Architectural office Lechner & Lechner
(We translated the original text from German to English)
Christine Lechner and her team have designed a youth hostel in Krimml. The building should not only blend in well with the alpine landscape, but also be so cheap that school trips there are affordable for everyone.
Ms. Lechner, what is so special about this construction project?
The location of the site was important. It is located at 1700 meters above sea level at the entrance to the Duxeralm district in Krimml. In this way, our building marks the start of local development. The topography is high alpine, and careful handling of the environment was key for us. In addition, the spatial program enabled an exciting interior composition. A defining factor was the low construction costs to enable affordable prices for school groups. This had many effects from the basic positioning of the structure to the stringent interior.
What is the inspiration for this project?
The inspiration for us was the topography. It was also important to us that our building creates an identity. We developed the idea of creating an inviting U-shaped village square. This is framed by two side wings, which are green and look like part of the landscape. On the open side of the square, the space is framed by the forest, which means that nature becomes part of the architecture. The pent roof of the main body follows the slope of Krimmler Straße and gets lower towards the valley side. As a result, the longitudinal structure is offset by half a floor in the middle. We have tried to meet the diverse requirements of the house, loosely based on a well-known quote from Karl Friedrich Schinkel: »It is the duty of architecture to transform the useful, practical and functional into something beautiful.«
How did the place affect the design?
In addition to the already mentioned effects of the topography on the external appearance of the building, the gradient is also deliberately shown in the interior. In the foyer of the youth hostel, the guest immediately encounters the vertical access, which we internally call the "wooden dome" and which extends over six floors. Only there does the viewer become aware of the dimensions of the youth hostel through the visual relationships to the sports areas. This greatness is hidden in the topography. On the ground floor, the view goes two and a half floors down, and the second basement with its sports areas is again at ground level to the forest landscape.
To what extent did the client, client or subsequent users influence the design?
The client gave us very clear parameters such as usage program, construction costs and logistics. In architecture we were free, as long as these were fulfilled. Due to the tight schedule, we decided together to prefabricate the components. We were able to convince the client of the solid wood construction. The costs were very important, since an eight-day ski week including travel by bus, ski pass and meals had to be possible within a budget of 400 euros (as of 2021) so that such school weeks are affordable for everyone. Therefore, it was central for us to focus on the space as the core of the architecture.
Were there any significant project changes from initial design to the completed structure?
There were optimizations and refinements both architecturally and on the cost side. The location in the landscape and the newly created village square were already present in the first sketch. From this first sketch, the project has continued to deepen in its essential aspects, and the focus of the changes has always been on the interior.
How does the building fit into the row of existing office buildings?
Wood as a renewable raw material has always fascinated us. In the 1990s we started with small, modern wooden buildings. A direct predecessor of the project with regard to the wooden construction is the boarding school of the agricultural school Winklhof, which was also implemented in solid wood construction. The youth hostel is a scaling up of a frequently used construction method to 7500 square meters of floor space. Both the walls and the ceilings are made entirely of solid wood. Only the two escape staircases are concreted. We have also often used the element of the hanging construction in the form of tie rods on a small scale and celebrated it here as a defining element in the »wooden dome«. The creation of horizontal surfaces on slopes and the weaving of architecture into the landscape are always themes in our projects.
Did current energetic, constructive or design tendencies influence the project?
The project fits into various general discourses, and many things would not have been planned and implemented without a strong awareness of social and ecological sustainability as well as climate protection. The youth hostel is heated by the local biomass power plant, the arrival is mostly by bus, the furniture was made from waste from the production of solid wood walls, the project was built instead of a usual chalet village and is therefore much more economical in terms of space consumption. Industrial quality was deliberately used for the solid wood construction walls in order to give space to the signs of wear and tear of the users.
What product or material contributed to the success of the completed structure?
The raw sheet metal covering of the ramps creates a strong contrast to the light wooden surface of the interior. This creates tension. In each room, the wood creates a relaxing atmosphere and in this way we bring the advantages of this material closer to the youngsters. From the outside, the wooden facade will continue to gray and thus merge even more with the landscape.
»Youth hostel Gerlos«
Hochkrimml 244, 5743 Krimml
Detached house with a small apartment
Jugendgästehaus Gerlosplatte GmbH
project Manager: Jörg Neumaier
Architectural office Lechner & Lechner,, Salzburg
project management: Mag. Christine Lechner
employees: Horst Lechner, Lukas Ployer, Paul Lechner und Michael Trixl
structural engineering: Forsthuber ZT GmbH, Salzburg
geology: Mag. Andreas Pflügler GmbH, Kitzbühl
fire protection: Golser technisches Büro GmbH, Oberalm
building physics: Ingenieurbüro Ing. Denis Gappmaier, Viehhausen
house technic: Bestra GmbH und Optiplan Ingenieurgesellschaft für technische Gebäudeausrüstung und Energiewirtschaft GmbH, Seekirchen am Wallersee
year of completion
Significantly involved entrepreneurs
builders and carpenters: Ehrenreich BaugmbH, Tamsweg
metal construction: Mertens & Frowein GmbH, Velbert-Neviges, Deutschland