The project of the Elisabeth and Helmut Uhl foundation has been realized thanks to a restricted international architectural competition held in 2009, which saw the participation of fifteen architectural teams from Italy, Switzerland, Austria and Germany. The jury was composed by prof. arch. Thomas Herzog, prof. Andrea Vidotto, prof. Vittorio Magnano Lampugnani and prof. arch. Hermann Kaufmann. The aim of the competition was to design a building able to host the activities of the homonymous cultural and research foundation.
The building is located in the municipality of Laives, near Bolzano, on a slope of a mountain enjoying a spectacular panoramic view and an amazing surrounding landscape. The project sought to preserve the surrounding environment: the buildings insist on the same footprint of the previous buildings, now demolished.
The project is divided into two buildings: the building foundation and a small building adjacent to it for residential use.
The building foundation consists of a series of architectural volumes: a transparent glass and steel volume hosts research activities, a wood cladding volume is used as a leisure and dining hall, while the lower architectural body, on which these volumes are placed, hosts support areas for the activities of the foundation and a wine cellar.
The project aims to express the tension generated by the orographic characteristics of the site and the specific functions of the building foundation: a tension generated by the visual connections between the interior spaces and the external environment. The building expresses the relation between the traditions of the place and the technological innovation, between the space for working and the space for living. The buildings are designed to protect guests from the particular climatic conditions, but at the same time to let them enjoy the benefits created by the surrounding environment and the wonderful views.
Part of the construction materials were recovered from the demolition of existing buildings. The construction materials follow local traditions, such as hand-cut larch shingles, the exterior plaster and the porphyry stones which remind to the traditional local buildings. The construction materials become elements of dialogue with the history and the culture of the region.
Innovative technology solutions are adopted; the structure of the lower part of the building foundation is made of structural panels with Thoma wood technology while the upper volume hosts a sophisticated opening window system.
The building is classified in Casaclima A with the distinction of having no controlled indoor ventilation, replaced by the possibility of using the hot air generated in the glass volume, acting as a buffer zone. A large tank of 20,000 liters, thermally insulated, is able, supported by a solar heating system and a biomass boiler, to satisfy the radiant heating floor throughout the complex.
“Elisabeth and Helmut Uhl Foundation“
Founded in 2008 and named after the parents of the founder, Rainer Uhl, the “Elisabeth und Helmut Uhl Stiftung“ is a non-profit organization (öffentliche Stiftung des bürgerlichen Rechts) based in Munich.
Aim of the foundation is to advance sciences and arts by
• advancing networking between disciplines and cultures in order to create innovations for the society,
• fostering individual (highly gifted) frontier runners and lateral thinkers, who exemplify such networking,
• Organizing interdisciplinary and intercultural meetings,
• Promoting an architecture, which combines sustained ecological aims with a novel, gentle esthetics.
Housed in two distinct volumes, this building explores the tensions between traditions of place and technological innovation in a compelling way.
A portion of the construction materials used was recovered from the demolition of nearby existing buildings. These construction materials follow local traditions, such as hand-cut larch shingles, exterior plaster and porphyry stones, thus creating a dialogue with the history and culture of the region.
At the same time, a number of innovative technology solutions were adopted. The structure of the lower part of the building foundation is made of structural panels with Thoma wood technology while the upper volume hosts a sophisticated opening window system.
The building is classified in Casaclima A with the distinction of having no controlled indoor ventilation, replaced by the possibility of using the hot air generated in the glass volume, which acts as a buffer zone. A large tank of 20,000 litres, thermally insulated and supported by a solar heating system and biomass boiler, is able to satisfy the radiant heating floor throughout the complex.
More from the Engineer:
The building is developed into three different units for dimension and shape, which cover a particular and different function. The main body is a compact construction composed by two levels and it redraws the imprinting of the pre-existent building. It is essentially the Uhl family’s house in the north-east side and the host rooms exposed to the south-west side. Posed on the top of that unit, there is a particular volume thought as space for the research and the reflection, a refectory, a suggestive terrace and a greenhouse laboratory.
The recurring item of the project is to fuse together the building with the ambient around. With this aim each filter space, each floor and the staircase which connects the different levels are conceived to connect the building with the context by extraordinary and generous views.
Each space of the construction is conceived to reach the best energy and lighting performances for its specific functional purpose. The residential spaces are built with superficial rocks and concrete, while the research spaces are realized with steel, wood and glass with a mechanical system of lights and shadows which create a real technological area. The rocks used are taken by the demolition of the pre-existing edifice.
The structural design considers the realization of a complex construction composed by the mix of various materials as reinforced concrete, steel, wood and glass. The cellar is entirely realized in reinforced concrete, while the ground and the first floor are partially underground because of the natural slope of the site land and these are realized with wood and reinforced concrete. The cover floor, completely out of ground, is composed by two sub-structures defined as “hot diamond” and “cold diamond”, both having a double pitched-roof. In particular, the sub-structure HOT DIAMOND is realized with steel and wood, while the COLD DIAMOND is built with structural glass and steel.
For the wood structural elements is used solid wood; in particular the lead-bearing elements are realized with coupled panels, following the THOMA-Holz system. The two diamonds are supported by an inner structure realized with steel columns, designed with the purpose to divide their structural behaviour from the underlying wood construction. The foundations are achieved in reinforced concrete beams of 40 cm thickness, and the load-bearing elements of the structure are built with reinforced concrete pillars and walls, steel columns and strong coupled-panels walls. The slab floor is realized with steel and full pouring lean concrete, corrugated metal sheet and completion pouring slab, while the wood solution with coupled panel of strong wood.
The roof of the two diamonds structure is assembled with solid wood or in structural glass for the HOT and the COLD one respectively. The distinction of the materials adopted in the different units is clearly highlighted in the picture below, representing the 3D view of the FEM model.