Peter Haimerl on Rescue Operations
Peter Haimerl: Since my childhood, I have observed how almost all the lovely old houses in the Bavarian Forest are disappearing, and with them, a centuries-old building tradition and the ambience of the whole region – the sense of building quality, space and location. At first, I thought that, together with colleagues, I would be able to inspire people to reinstate their own houses. That proved to be a fallacy, though. In my experience, the only way is to do it yourself – to purchase the property and rehabilitate it.
The building fabric was dilapidated. The roof had been leaking for many years. What did you encounter exactly?
PH: The timber house with a masonry stable section probably dates back to the 18th century. It had undergone a number of extensive conversions. In the 1970s, snow damage had destroyed the roof, which was why everything had gone mouldy. For a long time, the cows and sheep from the adjoining meadows had used the ruin as stables. In all honesty, one had the impression that the building was beyond repair.
What was the financial plan and the user concept for the refurbishment of the ailing structure?
PH: Initially, I wanted to join forces with other architects and people with a similar interest. The aim of the newly founded firm, Hauspaten Bayerwald, was to acquire a number of objects jointly, to rehabilitate them and to use them together. Unfortunately, people’s involvement generally declines when the investment is great and there’s little hope of profit. I had to change my concept, therefore. The house on the Schedlberg – removed from mass tourism – was to be rented out like a temporary work of art, either for short-term residence or as a long-term retreat. I also want to establish the Schedlberg Academy there, a place where different disciplines can exchange ideas, including architects and clients.
The Bavarian Forest is a relatively poor region of Bavaria. What distinguishes the building culture there?
PH: The traditional blockhouses in the Bavarian Forest exhibit a high degree of craftsmanship. That is immediately evident in the detailing of the quoins. After I had studied this building tradition for a long time, I came to recognize that in many cases the houses were not far removed from nature. You can see how thin the layer between nature and culture is. Sometimes there's a quarry right next to the buildings, and in some cases rocks scattered about in the area were used for the masonry or the door surrounds. On the Schedlberg, these are constructed in granite which comes directly from the forest next to the house, just like the tree trunks used for the timber walls. Houses like the one on Schedlberg are united with nature. They stand between forest and meadow and form a link between nature and culture.