Architects: IBBTE University of Stuttgart
- Area : 12 m²
- Year : 2019
Manufacturers : Reetdach Berlin, Zimmerei Müller
Lead Architects : Armin Kammer, Anke Wollbrink
- Association : German Alpine Association (DAV) – Section Mannheim, Alexander Birnbaum
- General Contractor : Reetdach Berlin
- City : Brand bei Bludenz
- Country : Austria
Text description provided by the architects. The objective is to research the appropriateness of reed as facade and roof cladding material, especially in high altitude alpine regions.
Reed grows fast, forms a valuable biotope, generates better water quality, and provides a home for multiple animals. The dead-standing part of the plant is going to be replaced by new plants every year. Only this dead part of the plant is going to be harvested and can be used as a cladding material for the facade and roof without any further treatment. At the end of life, the reed is compostable and closes the material life cycle.
Reed - also known as thatch - is in every sense a sustainable, renewable, carbon-neutral resource and seems to be a perfect alternative renewable material for the building envelope: rapid growth, short process chain with low energy demand and emissions, perfect life cycle, no pollutants, proved over generations.
After two years of research and project development at the Institute of Building Technology and Design IBBTE at the University of Stuttgart, we built in August 2019 the first thatched project in high alpine surrounding close to Mannheimer Hut (2600m) in Vorarlberg, Austria. The building envelope has been realized in local thatch and wood by reducing metal connections as far as possible and all other materials.
The building guarantees the water supply of the main hut and needed a new appearance. We decided to use the existing stone building as the foundation for the new wooden structure to minimize the intervention into this sensible environment.
The design needed to be simple and appropriate to location and use. The main focus should be on the material itself with its architectural and manual – technical coordinated details. The integration of experiences thatch craftsmen in an early stage of planning was essential to develop simple and appropriate details for the material involved. A team of craftsmen, students, and faculty staff developed and built balanced together.
But how did we get to this material? This was a very formal approach in the beginning. We realized that in their design work for a mountain hut the students attempted to design the full envelope – façade, and roof – out of a single material to generate a monolithic design.
So we researched the following student workshop materials which could be used in this way. Besides stone, concrete, wood, and metal we rediscovered the material thatch which allows a very three-dimensional design analog to concrete almost. This fascinated us right away and led to further research and the idea of building a prototype thatched envelope.