The enchanted shed
Leopold House in the Vienna Woods, Lower Austria
The workmen from the village wanted to tear down the black shed from 1934: draughty, weather-beaten and worm-eaten it was, they said. But we liked this black outbuilding of the mansard-roof house in the Vienna Woods that we had just renovated in a radical yet respectful manner.
An old outbuilding became a writer’s workshop, a garden room for guests, and a children’s paradise.
The special appeal of this project lies in the appreciation shown for this old outbuilding in the shadows of the Vienna Woods villas. Back in the 1930s, few people could afford a basement, let alone a garage. And so they built their own sheds to store wood, raise rabbits or boil laundry in, which was then hung up to dry in the attic.
A magical place of retreat
Over the past few decades these structures have lost their original purpose, and many are falling apart. This is a real pity. Converted into small, cosy ‘hideaways’, they become affordable, magical retreats for families and their guests.
The room can also be used as an out-of-the-ordinary guest room.
We inserted a large pane of glass into the front wall of the attic floor and carefully insulated the trusses. The walls were panelled with varnished grey fir, and an elevated section at the rear was upholstered so that the attic can also be used as an out-of-the-ordinary guest room.
Watching the squirrels
An elegant brass trapdoor closes off this enchanted place, from where you can watch the squirrels play in the treetops. The ground floor is still used for storing garden tools, the lawn mower and fruit crates, while upstairs it is snug and comfortable. Spotlights illuminate the brass in the evening, creating a warm light – even in freezing winter when the unheated room is used for cooling down after a sauna session.
The roof is covered in moss. We like that.
The attic is ventilated via an already existing window and small air vents installed along the sides. We didn’t touch the roof, though. It is covered in moss. And we like that.
In the 1950s this villa was the typical weekend house of a middle-class family in post-war Austria. They would sit cosily together in a parlour panelled in stone pine (practically a standard feature in those days), the wood burning in the tiled stove beside them crackling agreeably, the heavy ceiling beams above seeming to bend under their own weight. Life was comfy, if a little dark. A wrought iron wine stand on the table completed the picture.
Anyone who renovates a house, that is to say continues the history of an environment, must be a good researcher and story-teller. And someone who undertakes work on an old building needs an architect who is a good listener.
We explained that the parlour and tiled stove were just ballast from the past and gently suggested that the house was somewhat overloaded with rustic kitsch. But where should one start with the ceiling construction? Where should the building show respect for the old, where must the new be radically introduced?
Together with the clients we felt that, from now on, other elements should shape the character of the building. For instance, the gnarled apple trees that blossom behind the house. The old terrazzo floors the colour of black pudding, hidden like Pompeian treasures under the grey tiling. The slippery wooden floors. The old double windows. The first sketches showed new routes and visual axes through the orchard and idyllic places that no one had yet discovered. We gave the house a new open structure, a new spatial concept.
We took only two radical steps: we had an external wall removed and replaced it with a generously sized but economical pane of glass. Out of three dark little rooms we made a big, bright, loft-like space that now revealed a view of fruit trees and a magnolia, the pool from the 1950s, and the wooden shed treated with carbolineum. Now children play in small side rooms, the family lounges on an upholstered platform, the kitchen is both open and yet separate.
The shed and the house are now connected by a seemingly hovering larch deck that is like a kind of open living room from where you can look across the garden. Around the old apple trees circles were cut out of the deck. When the children look out the spectacular window they see the tops of the fruit trees, illuminated from below at night.
What amazing spectacles are revealed here now each season! What fine structures can be discerned in snow-covered or blossoming branches or in ripening fruits. A setting that had always existed, but was simply never discovered. All at once the house reveals the magic which previous generations had already searched for. Through the large glass pane it becomes a part of the house.
It tells the story of this summer retreat in a new way.
Type of commission
Scope of commission
Generalplanung und ÖBA
Net usable floor area
Anna Ladurner (PL), Michael Eder (PL), Ulrike Straube
DI Margarete Salzer
DI Andreas Perissutti
Andreas Buchberger (5), Veronika Hofinger (1)