How You Get 6,000 People Into A Quarry
The Austrian quarry in St. Margarethen, by AllesWirdGut Architektur, in St. Margarethen, Burgenland, Austria.
The Austrian quarry in St. Margarethen is one of the oldest in Europe, considered part of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites since 2001 as one of the most beautiful and imposing open-air areas in Europe.
This unique landscape was used by the “Symposium of European Sculptors” as the site of an exhibition of numerous stone sculptures, initiated by Karl Prantl in 1959. The transformation of this area was part of a competition in 2005, won by AllesWirdGut Architektur, who turned it into an open space arena. Here, events of all kinds – from opera festivals to theatrical plays to rock concerts – take place surrounded by a natural atmosphere with intense visual and spatial experiences.
The basic idea of the design is to extend the ambiance of the magnificent rock-face scenery to all parts of the theatrical arena so as to make it a more palpable and visually enveloping experience.
It takes time and studies to transform a quarry into something else without compromising its meaning and to allow a natural feature to interact with man-made construction the way this design does. It speaks the “simple language of nature and shapes” and at the same time, it works as a perfect scenario for artists and summer plays in a constructed yet not constructed way. The scenery is characterized by precise cutting edges, worked surfaces and subtraction of the ground.
The designers estimated the number of visitors to be up to 6000 persons at once. The architects play with levels, from +20,00m for the parking lot area, to the underground entrance building, placed at the edge of a cliff (+16,00m), to the accessible ramp of about 400m in length that leads to the canyons down deep (-19,00m) where the festival site lies.
Stone takes over the role of the stage curtain and veils the spot of action for the time being; furthermore, it offers a natural noise protection between catering area and stage area.
Quarry-related materials were used in construction especially for surfaces under the open sky areas. In the foyer, visitors can find a “carpet” made of different sorts of grit, which are converted into a water-bound cover that guarantees necessary infiltration areas and avoids the formation of dust over the dry summer months.
All the added curvatures and edges are covered with oxidized steel plates, a material used because of the history of the quarry with heavy construction machinery. Additionally, the steel guarantees protection from weather and vandalism during the winter time due to its already controlled oxidized surface.
White fiber-cement sheeting was used to create a more refined note in contrast to the rough sandstone and the rusted steel in areas.
As simple as it may seem, the idea of making a quarry look “untouched” is not that easy. The designers had to find a way to work with the materials found in the place and to complete the rest of the design with complementary materials, without making it look “over-constructed”.
The entrance area and VIP rooms were made with exposed concrete, playing all the time with “clean” aspects of construction. However, there are spaces finished with conventional steel structures, like ramps, toilets, and other VIP areas. The rest of the areas were completed with prefabricated materials.
The allocation of the backstage area into two autonomous parts allows two different construction phases, according to requirements.
The illumination of the whole area is mainly reached by an accentuation of the existing rock faces and rock edges. The goal is to keep the sky clear of disturbing spot lights or lanterns and offer an unobstructed view to the firmament. The use of “wall washers”, transforms the quarry into unique offstage scenery.
The edge of the premises in the visitor’s catering area also becomes a carrier of linear lighting. The pond is full of swimming lights, similar to water lilies, which emphasize the atmosphere. The individual picnic areas have lights which are combined into the benches and spread soft streaks of light to the ground.
Emergency lights are combined into lanes to make sure people follow the right path and can move around without falling, inside the site.
The finished Quarry shows us the complexity in every project we start, small or big; it always has a point that defines its purpose, the one that make the users feel comfortable and the purpose of the architects is to make it function.
This leads us to the eternal dispute between form and function; in this case, to the naked eye, it’s not architecture at all, but it works. The design guides people into different areas, perfectly distributed, as shown by functionalities studies. In this project, form and function fuse together, just like nature and manmade construction, to make an open space really work.
What do you think of this project? Let us know in the comments below!
Full Project Credits For The Austrian Quarry in St. Margarethen
Project: The Austrian quarry in St. Margarethen
Architects: AllesWirdGut Architektur
Location: St. Margarethen, Burgenland, Austria
Collaborators: Ecki Csallner, Elmir Smajic, Ferdinand Kersten, Maria Magina, Mareike Kuchenbecker, Martin Brandt, Michael Sohm
Client: Fürst Esterházy Familienprivatstiftung
Start of construction: December 2006
End of construction: May 2008
Gross floor area: 5.580 sq.m
Outdoor spaces: 4.430 sq.m
Photographers: Miss Petra Schneidhofer and Hertha Hurnaus
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