23.09.2014 Peter Popp

Playful dialogue: Community centre in South Tyrol

Natural stone and untreated pine wood: These robust and tradition-imbued materials at the new community centre in St. Martin, South Tyrol, merge in with the Alpine character of the 3,000-inhabitant village. Yet the focus of the building is not on humble adaptation. Rather, colour accents at selected points and striking changes in scale cause mild irritation while fostering new forms of inclusiveness. Architect: Andreas Flora, Innsbruck, Austria
Location: 39010 St. Martin, Passeiertal, Italy
"The question of how to express contemporary architecture at the heart of a long-evolved Alpine village was the challenge in this project ".  

The Innsbruck architect Andreas Flora found a nuanced solution for the extensive room programme, one that preserves the village scale by placing much of the required building mass underground through skilful exploitation of the topographical situation.  
Precisely-positioned overhead windows provide natural daylight to the music practice rooms, tea kitchens, changing rooms and other interior spaces concealed discreetly in the earth along with the stipulated underground car park.
In the village square, all that can be seen of the community centre is a solitary structure in natural stone, one that fits in with the scale and gabled roof typology of the surrounding buildings, some of which are listed. At the same time the community centre sets itself apart with its sharp-edged cubic volume and its large openings and geometric indentations, which in themselves make an inviting impression in the immediate vicinity, attesting to a desire for transparency and exchange. 
The building's most arresting element and visual highlight is an overly wide door, which can be completely opened for cultural performances in the stage area behind independently of the weather. In itself this element is a pleasantly unclichéd manifestation of the active involvement of the local population in various leisure-time clubs.   
The space-defining materials underscore the building's rural location. Reclaimed natural stone from the region and untreated Swiss stone pine are the predominant visual features, ensuring broad approval for the design.  Against this consensual background, playful deployment of anti-rustic furniture elements is naturally acceptable, their functional aesthetics and glowing colours introducing a touch of Scandinavian design to homely South Tyrol.
This exercise in integration was persistently put to the test in a multi-year participatory process involving the residents with the goal of strengthening economic and social cohesion in the community. This is not the worst way of going about achieving a broad level of acceptance for a building that takes a broader view within a village context, and indeed, the experiment in fostering dialogue across all local barriers could well work out. Whatever the case, the building has already won the South Tyrolean Architecture Prize 2013. Project data Client: Municipal administration of St. Martin in Passeier
Planer und Fachplaner: Gilbert Sommer, Wolfgang Hainz, Plan Werk Stadt, Hartmann & Gamper, Thermostudios
Volume: total 9.500 m³, over ground 1.500 m³
September 2013
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