22 October 2010

The Modernist Castle Dilemma

A problem that could be facing any modernist lover, any day, anywhere: 

What to do you if you own an old burned-out castle in Germany you don’t want to rehab for $9m to live in it? Silly question; you build on top of it.
In 1830, the Löwis of Menar family purchased the Mauren chateau near Stuttgart in Southwest Germany as a summer residence. It was constructed approximately two centuries before and burned out in 1943, hit by British bombs. During WWII, the Krohmer family, direct descendants of the Menar family, made do in the stables, the burned-out castle was off limits (‘yeah right’, said the kids). After the war, preservationists wanted to rebuild ("your money is no object"). Though the owners were able to keep the castle from further decay, they couldn’t actually use it.
Over several decades, the family had repeatedly considered how to make use of the large lot and make the ruins habitable again. Rebuilding according to original plans would have created approx. 14,000 sf of living space, at a cost of ca. 6.5m Euros (approx. $9.1m as of Oct 2010).

"Then as now, way too expensive for us," says grandfather Ernst Krohmer. "And who wants to live like that anyway," asks his daughter-in-law Anke. "We wanted something modern but not fashionable, tying new in with the old."
As often with such projects, the right architect made all the difference. Ingo Bucher-Beholz, first very hesitant to accept the commission, changed his mind after visiting the site. On the evening of his visit he faxed a draft, showing the castle walls topped by a steel structure and two cubic buildings. 
After decades of no solution in sight, suddenly everything fell into place very quickly. Plans were approved because the new development does not destroy the historic construction, instead hovering 18 feet above it. The two buildings, home to three generations of the Krohmer family, cost 210,000 Euro (ca. $294,000) each, offering 1,500 sf of living space per home. They are divided into four equal-sized rooms, two bathrooms and an open living/dining/kitchen area.
A steel bridge connects the two bungalows, a common staircase leads downstairs. There, kids bikes and barbecue grills are parked, and family parties take place in the shade of the homes above. Says a delighted Felix Krohmer: "That we can live this way is a gift."

Based on an article published in the FAZ. Photos by Jens Gyarmaty and Zoom61 (#4).