Elegant “Wohnregal” – Architecture Workshop

WOHNEN / Eva Mattes

Rooftop Terrace and Rose Garden 

"If the door is open in the summer, sometimes a tourist or two will curiously come in and get lost in the studio," says Reinhold Sams, a colleague of the architects Christine and Horst Lechner. The Lechners’office is located in the Old Town of Salzburg, not far from the Mozarteum and the Landestheater, and their acquisition of the space is described by its owners as a "coincidence". The former car and bicycle workshop, which, at this time, served as a garage, were allocated to the architects. That's about it: within three months, the two architects turned it into a comfortable studio: complete with roof terrace and rose garden!

Such a space ensures one thing above all: generosity. The architects did not want to change that. The conceptual changes to the one-room plan were minimal and barely perceptible as such. A glass wall to accommodate the toilets separated a piece of the room. Adjustable metallic blinds ensure privacy. This area is somewhat isolated by an iron staircase leading to the roof terrace of the single-story building. Its saw-like, zig-zag line cuts through the otherwise strictly linear room in an expressive way.

Screed Platform

Although the existing floor plan was more or less preseved, it took three months of hard and stressful renovations to make the space ready for use. "We have taken over a ruin that was in such horrible condition that you can not even imagine it," recalls Christine Lechner. The building had already been vacant for many months. Particularly in regards to heating and thermal insulation, the building had never met the usual standards due to being used as a garage rather than an office. Between then and now, there have been changes that affect the entire building structure; the thermal insulation was blown into the existing cavity in the roof construction. Since it would have been too costly to redo the entire floor, they instead opted to install a sealed screed on the existing one. This houses insulation, electrical wiring, installations, and under floor heating. The roof skylights were equipped with insulating glass.

Flexible Plans

At first glance one thinks that they are on a location for a commercial. But as trendy as the cool garage office is, the furnishings and fittings are so ingenious and functional that perfectly suits the architecture business. Sliding wall cabinets, which are mounted on the pre-existing H-beams, form the “heart” of the space. They usually divide the space into two zones to ensure uninterrupted working and telephoning for the architects. In the case of the suspended storage containers however, the containers allow a variety of floor plan layouts; the cabinets can be pulled apart laterally so that space for a meeting or a presentation is created in the middle - a room within the room. It is also impressive to see when Christine Lechner gradually adapts the area to accommodate student events.

In extreme cases (such as during event use), the hanging storage spaces provide enough space to let the entire office disappear into it, so to speak. Everyday life in this space, however, looks different: notes, plans, photos and more "clothe" - especially suitable for presentation purposes – the fronts of the suspended gray storage containers made of stained MDF boards. They are a successful example of how to make a virtue out of necessity. They applied foam rubber to the sliding elements of the cabinets and have thereby created a generous amount of pin-wall surfaces in addition to creating sound absorbers. This is important due to the almost exclusive use of hard and smooth surfaces everywhere else in the room.

Exemplary Recycling of an Old Building

Even today, there are people who walk into the studio looking to repair their bike. This is probably due to the fact that special attention was paid to maintaining the character of of the workshop. Here, the flair of the original structure was combined with flair rather than being completely redeveloped. The allusions to the former designation of the building are extremely subtle, but at the same time omnipresent, particularly in regards to the use of functionality: the movable furniture, built on former tool holders, provides a flexible work space to accommodate any situation and magazine shelves house the project models. The Spartan-looking screed has also remained, and even the raw, untreated iron that the Lechners used for the stairs brings back memories of the former garage like finding a striking old portrait from the twenties.

Atmosphere Over Perfection

But the architects were able to emphasize a reminiscence of days gone by mainly through the use of generous skylights, which provide the room with sufficient light during the day. The architects were not concerned with creating something new; on the contrary, they sought to combine new ideas with what was already there. Existing structures were not eradicated, but preserved or visibly superimposed. Above all, one did not aspire to have an overly polished look that such places so often have. This alleyway building, made for mopeds, bicycles, motorcycles and other means of transportation, has no place for a doormat. Thus, meter-by-meter, two worlds are present, both in terms of content and material, and above all, a story that was not honed with the false ambition of perfection.

WOHNEN 2001

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