Architectural Sculpture in Red Stone – A New Addition for Heidelberg Castle
The Swiss architect Max Dudler (born 1949) enjoys working with stone, as his father was a stone mason and awakened in him a love of this natural material. In particular, where historically significant tasks are involved, Dudler demonstrates his qualities as a professed master builder in stone. This is shown by the expansion of the “Hambacher Schloss,” a democratic commemorative site, and currently the new addition of the visitors’ centre at the romantic Heidelberg Castle.
Dudler did not set out “to invent any alternative worlds,” but rather “to develop something new from within history, thereby updating history into the current context…” with the material at hand. For Dudler, doing the new addition for Heidelberg Castle with natural stone was mandatory: “The ruin looks like a mountain chain of red sandstone, one can only add construction using the same material, although with a contemporary interpretation.”
From castle to palace ruin
With about 1.4 million visitors per year, Heidelberg Castle is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Germany. The new visitors’ centre was built to handle this onslaught and was opened in spring 2012. It is the first new construction in 400 years on the historic site, where a castle first stood around 1300. The process that formed Heidelberg castle into a massive monument to diverse interwoven style elements from Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque took several centuries. The castle, built of red sandstone, served as the magnificent residence of the prince electors of the Palatine, until it was destroyed in 1693 during the War of the Palatinate Succession. The castle deteriorated until the Romantic Movement celebrated the ivy-covered idyll in poetry and painting. In the 19th century, heritage conservancy initiatives preserved Heidelberg Castle as a historic ruin. Only the Friedrichsbau was rebuilt in neo-Renaissance style. For today’s visitor, this charming ensemble high above Old Heidelberg offers a lovely image in remembrance of Romantic Germany.
Architectural sculpture of Neckar Valley sandstone
The elongated new visitors’ centre is located outside the old defensive ring at entrance portal to the castle and the garden (Hortus palatinus). It is flanked by an old gardener’s house and the historic Sattelkammer (tack room). At first glance, the new building looks like an enterable sculpture of red stone, in which deep recesses mark out windows and entrances. In spite of its very tranquil, purist appearance, this vertically staggered building fits in effortlessly with the historic ensemble. Max Dudler succeeds in this stratagem by referencing material, structural order and building elements from the castle area. This can be seen in numerous instances: thus Dudler chose the Neckar Valley sandstone typical of Heidelberg for the facade of the visitors’ centre, in allusion to the castle’s own red sandstone.
The building’s interior reveals that the thickness of the exterior walls is not just a historical reference, but also has practical reasons: technical rooms and staircases are discretely and invisibly concealed within these thick walls. The centre of the narrow building is the broad, light-filled visitors’ hall with shop and cash desk. Here, seating options specially designed in wood for this building invite one to linger for a while and relax. The organically flowing space which extends over almost the entirety of the building’s exterior length, is reserved, yet elegantly designed. White stuccoed walls, luminous ceilings, a shimmering, light-grey terrazzo and custom-made cherry-wood components convey an elegant lobby character.
2012 DAM Prize for Architecture in Germany
The 22 best buildings in and from Germany
26 January – 21 April 2013
German Museum of Architecture (Deutsches Architekturmuseum)
is an architecture critic and free-lance art historian.
Translation: Edith C. Watts
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion
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