Factor’s House Schönbach
Cloth merchant’s turned company headquarters
The scenic Upper Lusatian Hills roll down from south-east of Dresden in Saxony to the border with the Czech Republic. The region is still home to large numbers of heritage umgebinde houses, a fusion of the Slav log-construction method and the German half-timbered style of building. Such is the aura of tradition emanating from these splendid-looking structures that they have now become a landmark tourist attraction in the Upper Lusatian Hills. One notable example is the Factor’s House in Schönbach, which has now been most agreeably revamped by Atelier ST.
Umgebinde houses usually comprise a brick-and-timber ground floor surmounted by one or more storeys made entirely of wood. The term umgebinde derives from the way a non-load-bearing central log-walled space on the ground floor (the blockstube) is “bound round” by a system of wooden posts and beams supporting the floor(s) above. The Factor’s House in Schönbach was erected in 1785, at a time when linen weaving was a major industry in Upper Lusatia. A building in which commercial agents known as “factors” once traded in threads and other items for the cloth-making industry now houses the management and administrative department of a modern furniture maker.
The blockstube continues to be of particular importance to the house. It serves a semi-public function as a space for seminars in the course of which both company staff and their customers get a chance to create menus of their own in cooperation with an in-house chef. The atmosphere obtaining in the space results from the circumspect, conservation-compliant manner in which the original architecture has been refurbished, a dramatic sense of contrast being provided by a modern crude-steel stove and by decidedly linear furniture.
Architecture and Object
Silvia Schellenberg-Thaut and Sebastian Thaut, Atelier ST
Photo: © Atelier ST
“We aspire to create buildings that do not immediately give everything away from the outside,” the practice declares. “They have to be felt, be capable of being experienced spatially.”
A spatial experience
The aim was to preserve the building’s original appearance whilst nevertheless “stylistically updating it so as to facilitate new forms of use”. The conservation authorities are partly to thank for this having been achieved so well in that they gave the thumbs down to some of the architects’ initial ideas. Large window apertures in the roof were adjudged to be inacceptable, for instance. A means of generating more light that found favour with all concerned came in the form of a long dust-pan dormer made up of several small windows in a row. It blends in visually with the eyebrow windows above and has an authentic feel about it.
And what a surprise it is to discover upon entering how the architects have contrived to fashion the interior. How high, wide and bright the spaces look, an effect achieved in part by means of a sizeable opening in the loft. And yet the spaces are primarily defined by exposed half-timbering and the structuring of the roof, features that keep the narrative of the past alive. Painted white throughout, they serve to historically contextualise a new functional identity brought about with the aid of bold colours and modern materials.
The FSB 1102 door and window handle selected has its roots in a redesign by Alessandro Mendini that opened up a fresh perspective on the famous lever handle by Walther Gropius. The FSB 1102 model is supplied in three materials. The handles for the Factor’s House were fitted in Dark Patinated Bronze, thus, as the architects themselves put it, “underscoring the symbiosis attained between old and new whilst also exuding a sense of value, timelessness and elegance.” The recessed pull FSB 42 4250 was employed on sliding doors – likewise in Dark Patinated Bronze.
Photos: Robert Rieger