Living structure: Visitors‘ centre at fortress Sparrenburg
Text: Virginia Zangs
The visitor information centre at the historic Sparrenburg fortress, which opened on 17 September, will function as an informative spatial compass. It translates the style elements found in the fortress into a modern form made of compressed concrete, giving the entire fortress a new style as a whole.
Architect: Max Dudler Architekt, Berlin
Location: Sparrenburg, Am Sparrenberg, 33602 Bielefeld, Germany
The new visitors’ centre was conceptualized by the architect as an autonomous single-storey volume. The body of the structure “opens a gap between old and new” and preserves a degree of detachment from the remains of the fortress, which include the old gate, the main building and a 37-metre-high tower. From a distance, the self-contained edifice looks like an extension of the old fortress wall, which screens outsiders’ view of the inner courtyard which lies behind it. By positioning the new building at the southeast edge of the fortress grounds, the historic elements of the ensemble take on a new spatial quality.
When visitors pass through the fortress gate, which consists of an historic gatehouse, they are met with a new reception area featuring a roofed-in seating area and three possible paths to follow: straight on to the courtyard, left to the fortress buildings or right to the visitors’ centre.
“The architecture isn’t a reconstruction of a particular historical situation. Instead, it represents the addition of a contemporary layer to the eventful history of this place”, says Max Dudler. The new building integrates into the old situation by “translating the language of the old structure into a modern form.”
The compressed concrete takes up the colour and texture of the medieval natural-stone work. The symbolic “sedimentary layers of rock” emphasize the artisanal process of creating the living façade. The massive layers of stone found in the fortress wall are translated into a monumental façade with black interior window frames and a sloping exterior soffit. The interior features the same massive materiality.
Next to this new staging of the ruined fortress, the visitors’ centre functions as a space for the obligatory museum gift shop and ticket counter. A kiosk which opens onto the courtyard has been integrated as well.
The creation of the new visitors’ centre was assigned to Max Dudler Architekten within the framework of a competition in 2013. Other projects currently under way include an information point for the nearby Johannisberg garden and park. In terms of materiality, spatial dimension and façade design, this will share a common language with the visitors’ centre.
Material: stamped concrete
Site area: 135.70 m²
Usable space: 78.55 m²
Completion: September 2014
Structural engineering: Prinz & Pott GmbH, Bielefeld
Construction management: Architektenbüro Stüwe, Bielefeld für Büro Max Dudler
Project management: Simone Boldrin
Team: Kilian Teckemeier, Thomas Back