Friday, 6 September 2013

Grand Design

There are many times when I wish I could share things with my dad. He passed away over 2 years ago so I wasn't able to tell him about our trip to Copenhagen, following in his footsteps from when he was a student of architecture in the 1950s. I couldn't show him photographs from our holiday in Sweden: again the Scandinavian architecture which he so admired throughout his life would have been of great interest to him.

Our recent trip to Austria was less about buildings and far more about the natural beauty of the lakes and mountains. And yet, virtually next door to our apartment on Lake Ossiach was the most striking building I have ever seen, sitting somewhat incongruously by the lake shore.

Steinhaus exterior
The exterior of the Steinhaus

The Steinhaus (Stone House) is located on the edge of Steindorf (Stone Village). It was a labour of love for its architect, Gunther Domenig, who wanted to create something which would stretch him to the limits of his imagination and skill in the field of architecture. It took over 20 years for his dreams to be realised, each step fraught with difficulties as opinion regarding the building was, not surprisingly, not always positive. Whereas many thought it a blot on the landscape, Domenig saw it as far more representative of the region of Carinthia, designing it to resemble the protruding rocks of the surrounding mountains. He objected to the 'hypocrisy of pseudo regional architecture.'

There is some debate as to whether he really intended to live in the property or whether this was purely an architectural vision. Either way, on its eventual completion, in 2008, the Steinhaus proved to be an iconic building in the area, a place for concerts and film showings, certainly not a folly by the water's edge.

Visiting the building on a hot summer's day, the ruggedness of the concrete structure is softened by the light finding its way inside via curiously designed windows. It is odd but it is quite playful and its quirkiness made me smile. There are very narrow corridors with slivers of light at the end, heavy concrete steps leading to oddly-shaped rooms - some walls painted a deep red, one with a bed in the middle. There is a working shower and toilet (so maybe he did intend to live here) and outside is a lush lawn with piles of stones and a gazebo, ready for some impromptu dining?

I decided to find out more about Gunther Domenig and discovered he was born in Austria on 6 July 1934, two days before my father. He died in June 2012, only a few short years after his life's work became a realisation. His experience as an architect must have mirrored my dad's, both learning about new forms of design in the post-war years, experimenting with different materials in the 1960s and 70s. They died just a year apart.

I can't share any of this with Dad but I can share it with you. Here are some photographs of the Steinhaus which will give you a flavour of this extraordinary building.


Steinhaus interior
Looking up at the ceiling


Ready for a concert in the main hall
Rory standing in window recess

The smallest room in the house (all in working order!)
The garden running down to the lake.


Share/Bookmark

28 comments:

  1. Wow that is spectacular. You'd love Chicago - it has some very unique architecture.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember watching a programme fairly recently with Billy Connolly taking his motorbike on Route 66. He pointed out some of the fantastic buildings in Chicago. Looked like my kind of place :-)

      Delete
  2. While I can appreciate the vision and talent that went into this I'm not a fan of modern architecture.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It does split people, doesn't it. I think context has a lot to do with it and I can see why this building, in such an area of natural beauty, caused a few feathers to be ruffled.

      Delete
  3. What a remarkable building. So different!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We were very surprised to see it there, I must admit, but at night time, subtly lit, it did have a beauty all of its own.

      Delete
  4. Extraordinary building - really spectacular. It's nice to keep a little connection to your dad by visiting places that you know he would have loved. You must miss him very much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think most of the time life carries on as normal but i do miss him and there are just those occasions when I think, wouldn't he have enjoyed hearing about that.

      Delete
  5. Not really to my taste but still an interesting building. As I read about the Steinhaus in the Steindorf I had a vision of you, Dougie and Rory travelling around Austria in a Steinauto - in the same way as Fred Flintstone commuted to work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your vision isn't far from the truth, Troy. Our hire car was so sluggish, I was tempted to cut a hole in the floor and start 'pedalling' myself.

      Delete
  6. What an amazing building. It gives one the sense of being immersed within an optical illusion!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! That's just it. I said at the time it was like being in one of those never-ending staircase paintings. Had to look up his name - Escher!

      Delete
  7. It's a very surprising structure. I'm not keen on how it looks from the outside but love the photos of the interior.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it probably horrified the locals when it was being built. It is an acquired taste but exploring inside does make you feel more positive about the building.

      Delete
  8. Oh, Trish, how often have I thought "Pop would have loved this," or "I wish Pop could have seen this...." Truly, I think he still finds parking spaces for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He's still looking out for you- isn't that just wonderful.
      You're so right, it's not that I'm sad all the time but not being able to share things just catches me now and again.

      Delete
  9. What an incredible house. It must have been great to visit...I think something like that in such a setting must be quite spectacular....do you think your Dad would have liked it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In a city it would have been remarkable enough but in this setting it was a huge statement. I think Dad would have found it very exciting. He loved clean modern lines, although he admired traditional buildings too.

      Delete
  10. I know what you mean about wanting to share things with your Dad and not being able to. Mine died shortly after Cullen was born and I still miss him terribly. It's been quite bittersweet moving back to Asia and knowing how much he would have enjoyed us having this experience. As far as the Steinhaus goes - I appreciate it from an aesthetic point of view, but the practical woman inside me kept thinking things like, "how would you ever get THAT clean?" and "Must be freezing in the winter." ; )

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm grateful Dad lived long enough to see Rory grow up. When he was born we weren't sure how long Dad had left- we were so grateful he lived as long as we did.

      Just think how easy it would be to mop though!

      By the way, in case you missed it, the previous post has my Juie Andrews photo on it - I know you mentioned on Facebook that you were interested in it. :-)

      Delete
  11. Lovely post - I'm sorry you didn't get the chance to share this with your Father. What an amazing building! I LOVE the ceiling and the fantastic light through all those windows. Just imagine the window cleaning bill though :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pleased you like it. It was great to be able to look around and find all the nooks and crannies. I wonder if the money from the small entrance fee goes to the window cleaner!

      Delete
  12. What a fabulous building! Especially love the ceiling.
    A real shame you could not share this with your Dad. Hugs. xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Seeing these places which he would have found fascinating is the next best thing xx

      Delete
  13. Gosh, I love that. What a beautiful building! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unusual - especially in these surroundings - but I loved it too.

      Delete
  14. What incredible architecture. Loving the light and the bravery of the windows. And your Dad must have been well ahead of his time admiring the Scandis - so many people feel comfortable only with traditional old things.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember reading his notes about his visits to Denmark - he adored the simplicity and freshness of Scandi design.

      Delete

If you'd like to leave a comment I would love to hear from you. I always try to reply to each one. To avoid spam, I moderate all comments before publishing.