A renovation and subsequent transformation of this medieval building into a home brings out the essence of safe-guarding vernacular architecture and its gems.
The Czech Republic is home to some of the finest architecture in the world. Marred by revolutions and war, most of these jewels took a beating – only to be resurrected by architects like ORA Architects. Safe guarding an intensely vernacular style of architecture while catering to the modern needs of man is no easy task. To the team, “the Štajnhaus has not been a project but a process. Throughout its existence it has suffered great many scars; it has gone through tens of reconstructions and operations. All of these have altered the house beyond recognition. Yet it has maintained its almost medieval picturesqueness.”
Completely unlike the heavily detailed and gilded buildings of the bigger cities in the Czech Republic, the Štajnhaus has a plain and extremely modest exterior like the other buildings around it – one can almost never tell that the house has a Renaissance core.
A narrow and simple entry makes way for the foyer with a splendidly humble groin-vaulted ceiling which hosts a contemporary lighting accessory. Black over white, a marriage made in heaven of visual senses is what the entire theme of the Štajnhaus is. With light coloured wood tones adding a bit of variation, the entire interior has been restricted to black metal work over stark white walls right from the black framed doors to the metal furniture.
Looking in, the modernisation is quite evident right from the start but given that the brief was quite straightforward the designers at ORA who specialise in vernacular design had a fairly sensitive job ahead – highlighting that, they share, “We were looking for a limit in time and for a point when we should rather go on a new journey. But we still wanted to preserve the house as an organic unit. You will not find a straight wall or a rectangular opening in the house, so we had to reinvent and remake to measure all the elements, which the investor was compliant with.”
The low vaulted medieval ceiling of the dining room above a heavy and rugged wood plank dining table, placed over a brick floor is a sort of cold swirl to the on-looker. Clearly keeping the existing building frame intact, the windows and walls of the house were made to sway to the current purpose of the house.
This theme flows into the dining room with pastel floor tiles, a ceiling comprising of heavy wooden beams and rafters and weighty wood accessories all kept together by the ever faithful black metal. The bedrooms are poster material for what can be best defined as industrial metal work jewels. The same plain, rustic walls under a heavy wooden ceiling with exposed beams and rafters are not what make this space special, the furniture does.
Four poster beds made of metal, abstractly taking the shape of a vaulted ceiling, a straight forward poster bed fitted with wheels – are all indicators of a contemporary soft corner but tactfully introduced by the designers in the form of these eccentric yet fun elements.
The rooms in the upper floor and the attic spaces have been planned to ensure space is utilised in the best possible way within the rigid parameters of this medieval building. Minimalistic beds under the sloped roof and metal reinforcements to define the confined spaces put to the test the ideology of form following function.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe always said “Where can we find greater structural clarity than in the wooden buildings of the old. Where else can we find such unity of material, construction and form?
Here the wisdom of whole generations is stored. What feelings for material and what power of expression there is in these buildings – they seem to be echoes of old songs.” The Štajnhaus echoes everything it has seen over the years from within, and the team at ORA let you hear those echoes, while lying on a bed that can only be called “art”.
Text By Virupa Kantamneni
Photographs Jakub Skokan, Martin Tůma / BoysPlayNice