At the very centre of the community of Mellau, there is a square with a linden tree surrounded by five distinct buildings: the kindergarten, primary school, church, municipal council building and the new community hall that form the heart of the village in the Bregenz Forest region, and one might be forgiven to think that it was always thus. This is however not the case, as the attractive ensemble only exists in its current form since the official opening of the kindergarten and community hall in the autumn of 2018. These two latest additions to the village centre were designed by architects of Dorner/Matt Architekten in Bregenz who were the winners of the design competition held four years earlier.
The architects instantly grasped what the community needed: a proper centre defined by clear structures, with inviting buildings catering for many different activities and bridging the gap between generations. That is why they added two new buildings that are similar in design to those already in place. To give the ensemble more structure, the new additions are positioned at right angles to each other. The new square is thus well-defined yet accessible through passages between the buildings. Timber was chosen for both the structural construction and the interior, as it caters for warm and cosy rooms, is available locally and fits the timber structures of the other buildings around the square.
Transparency with timber
The larger and probably more important of the two new buildings is the multi-functional community hall for up to 400 people. It has already become a popular venue for lectures, concerts and other social events, and also serves as a sports hall for the nearby primary school and kindergarten. The basement houses the usual auxiliary rooms as well as a large practice room for bands.
The fully covered entrance area is 29 m wide, 6 m high and 3 m deep. It most eye-catching features are spruce ribs along the side walls and the ceiling that protrude into the room, and the floor made from durable tongue and groove Accoya wood. "Combined with the large glass façade, these elements form an impressive entrance area that welcomes visitors with open arms into a space that is protected against the elements and acts as a link between the outdoor and indoor," explains Hannes Zumtobel of Dorner\Matt Architekten. The lightness and elegance of the new building are mainly due to this open space, its filigree ribbed construction that extends into the foyer and in particular to its transparency. When looking from the square trough the foyer and hall, one sees the buildings located behind the community hall, as the BauBuche posts that measure only 16 cm in width when seen in this direction do not obstruct the view.
Filigree supporting structure in BauBuche
The roof measuring 750 m² rests mainly on 16 x 32 cm BauBuche posts aligned in three parallel rows. Along the façade and the axis of the low partition wall between the hall the foyer, they are of room height. On the other side of the building, they rest on the low solid wall that separates the auxiliary rooms. The only ceiling-high solid walls above the concrete basement construction are found in the stage area, which serves as the stiffening core of the building. All other internal and external walls are constructed as non-load-bearing timber stud walls.
The BauBuche posts carry 30 cm wide BauBuche beams that span the building in transverse direction, protruding into the entrance area as well as into the auxiliary room section at the rear. In the 12 x 22 m hall, the beams measure 68 cm in height. Here, they are integrated into an acoustic ceiling 6 m above the ground and flush with the perforated spruce ceiling panels, acting as visible room dividers. In the foyer and entrance, they are concealed and support the suspended ribbed construction and stiffening three-layer spruce panels. Given the short span of the room, the beams are only 36 cm high.
All BauBuche elements were prepared by Pollmeier with bore holes and slots for the steel fixtures, so that the timber construction firm on site was able to install them in no time.
Minimised roof construction height
One of the main reasons why the architects chose BauBuche was the high load-bearing capacity of the material, which meant that the cross-sections of the elements could be kept much smaller than with a conventional hardwood construction. "With BauBuche, we could reduce the beam height in the hall to 68 cm, which enabled us to construct a roof structure measuring only 100 cm in height from the finished ceiling to the attic flashing," says Zumtobel. This dimension was crucial for the architects, as it determines the elevation height of the roof beam above the entrance area and also the overall proportions of the building.
Attractive combination of different timber finishes
BauBuche is not only the key structural material of the new community hall, it also dominates its interior. There are for instance the characteristic red hue surfaces of the structural laminated veneer lumber, revealing the supporting construction of the hall to the trained eye. Together with the other timber elements inside the building, they create a harmonic interior. This is particularly obvious in the foyer with its large glass walls on three sides. The floor in ash parquet with its lively grain pattern is in attractive contrast to the plain fir panelling along the walls and the ceiling and the slender structural elements. Together, these finishes create a well-structured room that is much more than just an extension of the hall. A low black cube with rounded corners housing the catering area forms a distinct element within a room dominated by warm timber hues. "To give this corpus its own distinct character, we used BauBuche panels painted with black varnish so that the typical laminated veneer lumber pattern is still visible," explains Zumtobel.
A community hall for all events
The community hall proper is a symmetric room with a 70 m² stage that has its own windows and is accessible directly from the foyer. When the folding wall in front of the stage is closed, the stage thus serves as a separate room. Discreet black markings on the floor show that the hall is used as a sports venue. The hall is flooded in daylight through rows of windows on both sides of the building. The overall impression of the room is one of understated elegance. As in the foyer, the sprung floor is constructed in ash, the wall are clad in fir panelling and the ceiling is covered in perforated spruce panels.
The hall thus provides a proper multi-function venue equally suitable for formal and festive events as for PE classes. When looking through the glass wall up to the ceiling of the foyer, one notices the attractive contrast between the smooth surfaces in the hall and the ribbed structure above the foyer. With their design, the architects succeeded in giving each room its characteristic ambience and look, hinting at the versatility of the building.
-Text by Roland Pawlitschko -