Atelier ST’s faktorenhaus project is a modern take on Austrian heritage


the studio of architects atelier ST has completed its latest renovation project, faktorenhaus, in the austrian town of schönbach. built in 1785, faktorenhaus was once a residential and commercial building that housed cloth merchants – also called “faktoren” – who supplied yarn and linen to fabric processors. today the building houses möbelstarke – a medium-sized company that markets contemporary furniture, kitchens and all related accessories.

since faktorenhaus is listed as an important cultural monument, the ultimate goal was to preserve its historical value while incorporating contemporary design that fulfills new functions. the ST workshop led this vision by focusing on a unique architectural feature that characterizes schönbach; the “Umgebindehaus” or half-timbered houses. in such houses, the main room on the ground floor is designed as a separate log structure surrounded by a circumferential support system.

all images © robert rieger


with this in mind, the Atelier ST team freed the faktorenhaus from all extensions – reducing it to its clear cubature and support structure. for example, the timber frame and beams have been widely uncovered and made visible to bring in more natural daylight as well as to create a subtle spatial experience inside. the exposed and bare surfaces of the ceiling and walls have given rise to unique spaces of light and air as well as galleries that provide visual links between the different office levels.

Moving on to functionality – the office structures for the administrative apparatus of möbelstarke are arranged on the two upper levels while the ground floor is reinvented as a semi-public space which houses a foyer, cloakroom, toilets and seminar rooms under its historic cross and barrel vaults. the log cabin, however, still remains the heart of the building. with its preserved historical structure, it has been converted into a pleasant guest room with open kitchen and fireplace.

access to the upper offices is provided by a new staircase on the north side which also serves as the first required escape route – allowing direct exit to the open air.

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the exposed and stripped surfaces of the ceiling and walls create unique spaces of light and air

surfaces, materials AND COLORS

materials and surfaces have been chosen on the basis of “what you see is what you get”. quarry stone, marsh lime mud and charred wood in combination with hand-carved white decorative frames characterize the exterior appearance. inside, natural clay plasters and light casein colors contrast with the dark raw steel or reflective chrome steel surfaces.

The floors of the offices and meeting rooms were covered with sound-absorbing and anthracite-colored carpets, while the other surfaces on the upper level were tiled using large-format oiled oak planks. for the log cabin, the historic planks found in the building were reconditioned and reused. all other public spaces have been covered with cement tiles.

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a rich combination of materials and colors accentuates the natural unity between old and new

finally, the three main floors have different colored sanitary facilities. compared to the subdued coloring of the main structure, bright colors such as purple, violet and turquoise were used in these “subordinate” rooms.

Ultimately, Atelier sk’s faktorenhaus project emphasizes historic structures while deliberately presenting modern elements as “new” additions to create a rich experience in the building’s space. as the company describes it, “tthe existing and the new complement each other and form a natural unity ”.

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Atelier ST freed the faktorenhaus from all extensions – bringing it back to its clear cubature and supporting structure

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