Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Rehabilitation Center, Rainberg – Sarah Schneider

Here’s another one for you to consider: what do you make of this?  A rehabilitation centre in the forests of the Austrian Alps for fifty patients, designed by young architect Sarah Schneider. This was her diploma project.

You can find out more about it here, including what the architect has to say about this project.


  1. Robert Winefield15 Apr 2010, 05:28:00

    OK I just followed the link.

    I suppose it's a good idea provided that therapeutic aspect of this monstrosity is supposed to make the patients realize that their former low altitude life was much easier. Easier than shifting snow off the many horizontal surfaces and slogging up slick smooth raised walkways only to make it back to the shelter of a building than has all the internal ambience and personal warmth of a train-station at midnight on a Sunday.

    Raised paths? Um, does she not realize that such things get blurred by heavy snows. And how alien will they look when the snow melts?

    And that atrium in a mental-facility for only FIFTY patients? Yikes. You could let a cannon off in that thing and not hit anyone or anything. If she wanted the patients to feel alone, why not save the trouble and just abandon them in the wilderness FFS!

    Seriously, where did that atrium come from?

    "We want you to feel alone and adrift on a sea of white - oh and there is no booze, smoking or loud noises to be made." Why? Because doing so will destroy the creepy silence of this building. A silence only punctuated by the echoing footfall on the concrete as the staff come to drag you away... Muhahahahaha!"

    That's the feeling I get from the interior. Ugh! Hell at least should be warm and personal by comparison.

    Sounds like a bloody nightmare to me.

    It might make a nice bus shelter if it weren't for the fact that there are no public transit stops built near by.

    I hate this building. It makes no sense.

    Sure it looks like a picture postcard in the one day in one thousand when you have clear skies and only just enough snow to make it blend into the landscape and the worker crews have chipped, swept and shoveled the bloody stuff off every horizontal surface.

    But - I think - that a building should look good in ALL seasons. That it should make sense. And that it shouldn't make me curse the architect when the news tells me that a blizzard is on the way.

    One ignoramuses opinion.

  2. Robert

    Perhaps the inmates/patients are the ones who get to shovel the snow as a form of tough love therapy. What do you reckon?


  3. Robert Winefield15 Apr 2010, 10:52:00

    That's what I was thinking. That and the fact that the top-down view of the building looks like the Alien out of HG Well's War of the Worlds...

    I wonder where it parked it's tripod War-machine...

    Seriously though. Now I've seen what people have to do to deal with a real blizzard (South Dakota isn't the end of the World, but you can see it from there), I understand why the Austrian townships you see that the buildings are compact and tall, with 65 degree inclines on the roofs, huge eaves, stairs, doors on the second floor and other atheistically boring things.

    They have them because snow sucks.

    Now if this building where in the hills of an arid region or a little way back from a rugged coastline - then I can see it, maybe. But perched above the snow-line on a mountain side? Nope.

    And it certainly doesn't strike me as a place where you can regain your wits. It's the sort of place where you'd loose them. I mean where can you get privacy in a place as open as that?

    I'm an idiot when it comes to art and architecture. But surely the basic principles aren't so intangible that I'm completely off base here. And if I am, it will be one hell of an interesting lesson.

  4. @Robert, I'd suggest to you that the young woman has concentrated far more on the form of her building reather than its decoration or ornamentation--as the abstract mono-colour models should suggest, and the complicated sculptural form would require.

    I suspect that a later development would see it much less cold, and much more humane--and I'd hope that as she matures her work hasmore of those qualities and less of Zaha Hadid's.

    All that said, I wonder how you feel about the interior of Eliel Saarinen's TWA Terminal at JFK Airport (see for example here and here), which this interior resembles to a remarkable degree . . .

  5. Robert Winefield15 Apr 2010, 11:06:00

    That should be Austrian Mountain Townships.

    To me, if you are going to spend any time in the snow, the house that you are living in should give you a feeling of warmth and security. You should be able to bask in the warm glow of a roaring fire, marveling at the wonder of man and his inventions as Mother Nature hurls her wintery fury ineffectively at your walls...

    You certainly shouldn't be cursing having to suit up in 50 layers as you prepare to shift snow off the roof least it cave in because its basically flat.

    I also wonder how easy it will be to heat that building. Does it come with its own electric generators incase the power gets cut. I ask because I didn't see any chimney's for wood fires...

  6. Robert Winefield15 Apr 2010, 11:19:00


    I just don't understand the building in this environment or for this purpose.

    Sure it looks good from below in the pictures. But doesn't form presume function too? I mean, if you are building a concept aircraft, you wouldn't decide to omit the means of propulsion and generating lift would you?

    Like I said, I don't get it. The violence of my response is that I've spent entirely too much time dealing with snow and falling on my arse thanks to black ice on foot-paths. I HATE WINTER.

    And the very aesthetic features that ARE meritorious in the Airport Terminals you listed are the same features that would make my life a living hell in that Mountain wintery environment.

    Yes, the airport terminals make sense, are pretty and I do like them. But the context is different.

    Like I said, I know zip about architecture, but you wanted a response so I gave you my gut reaction.

  7. Robert,

    Yes, I think she has concentrated more on her form over her function--but as she matures I wuld hope she would deliver as much of the latter as she does the former.

    But what she does deliver is delight, which I think youve under-recognised.

    Did you look at the plans of the sanitarium, for example, and see all the warm and cosy private rooms looking out to the forest? Did you realise that the dramatic interior you see is a mon0-coloured mpdel of the lobby, not a final, full-coloured work-up of a warm and cosy public lounge? Did you see those delightful raised walkways down into the snow? Did you realise it's possible to build a roof to take a snow-load? That snow itself can act as insulation? That this place would almost appear like a snow-drift itself once it was covered?

    This is, I expect, for people who LOVE their winters, and want to recover their health in an alpine winter environment--with all that entails. I think for student work that she's done a great job.

  8. @Robert, you said "I'm an idiot when it comes to art and architecture."

    You know, you really shouldn't give people openings like that. :-)

  9. Robert Winefield16 Apr 2010, 04:45:00

    As to your other points:

    No I didn't consult the plans closely. I'm probably not going to understand them instantly anyway. But then, you've just done that for me haven't you.

    I don't agree with the raised pathways. Those unless they are heated, are stupid. And not just for the reasons that they are treacherous to negotiate in winter unless you clear them very carefully. But also because man has invented a much more efficient and fun way of traveling on snow: skis and snow mobiles. Both of which are a hell of a lot cheaper than raised pathways.

    I also don't see the point of having a building that is designed to look like a snow drift in a heavy snow. Mainly because of my experience over Xmas in Sioux Falls. The neighborhood I was in BECAME one great bloody snow drift. And to get anywhere (grocery store or petrol station to get diesel for the snow blower) you had to first dig yourself out.

    Let me tell you the problem with snow. You can't get rid of the f---ing stuff in 0F weather. You can merely displace it. Which meant, that either side of every cleared driveway and footpath in Sioux Falls the piles of snow were 6ft high and we were only HALF-WAY through the blizzard.

    When the snow drifts are higher than you can lift a shovel or adjust the funnel on a snow blower - winter sucks.

    When it isn't snowing and you can drink whiskey in front of a roaring fire and your boss has called and told you to stay home - Winter is good.

    But when you have to work in the f--king stuff, winter sucks. And the poor bastards running this Sanatorium are going to have to work in the f--king stuff. I assume that this mountain retreat is going to be run as a business?

    I'm looking at this as an end-user of the buildings. I currently work in an award winning (architecturally speaking) lemon of a building (MRB building, KU Lawrence KS) apparently.

    It's about 2-years old, and this winter the snow collected on the roof (flat with raised edges so it works like a swimming pool). And when the snow melted it had nowhere to go but INTO the building.

    Which explains why I only just missed getting brained by 2-sodden fiber ceiling tiles that gave way just as I was entering the room in question.

    It's that sort of stuff really sours me on architects who take an interesting shape or building feature and incorporate it - seemingly just for the hell of it - into a second building without close regard to the second building's climate/environment context and the uses to which the building will be put.

    I'm not inclined to just accept any old tosh that some bloke with a T-square and a pencil puts out on some tracing paper.

    So here's my point.

    No one, including me, disputes that I am an ignorant c**t when it comes to architecture. But, given that I have acknowledged by artistic deficiencies, it shouldn't be too hard for an expert to correct my skepticism with facts.

    If you can't give me a good reason for something, in plain terms, then at bare minimum you probably haven't thought it through -- which is bad. At worst you are probably trying to sell me a lemon -- which is also bad. That is what I saw at first glance at this design. That was the origin of my HG Well's quip.

    And I'm not sure that you entirely disagree.

    You are merely defending the talent of someone promising. Fair enough. Talent should be encouraged - especially because the world is full of sour-bastards like me. But quality shouldn't be sacrificed.

    Remember this thing won an award. What does that say about the folks judging and teaching this youngster?

    Am I wrong?

  10. Robert Winefield16 Apr 2010, 04:45:00

    "I wuld hope she would deliver as much of the latter as she does the former. "

    I would hope so too. Like I said, it was a gut reaction to the plans.

    And I'm not afraid of being thought of as an idiot when it comes to thinks I know nothing about.

    Far better to admit that when it is true than to proceed as Obama - for instance - does on the assumption that you are the smartest man in the room and are therefore fully equipped both in knowledge and ability to run (1) The entire Health System of the 3rd most populous country in the world, (2) two of the largest car manufacturers in the world and (3) the most potent military in the world - all at the same time and over the increasing objections of the people you swore to serve.

    I give you the opening because I want to learn something. One of the advantages of being obnoxious (as opposed to obsequious) with good folks such as yourself is that you feel disposed to slap me down with facts.

    Thus I get the benefit of your insight without having to open my wallet.

    Sure, I get an ear-full. Hell, I deserve it.

    But my ego isn't that fragile as it might have been in my teens and I'm getting the benefit of your knowledge. That's worth eating a bit of humble pie. Humble pie is cheaper than a college course...

    See -there is method in my madness.

  11. Robert

    Sounds like you really do not like the snow much (and with good reasons).

    Structurally it isn't impossible to sort out the snow loading issue- so that's not a big problem. The raised paths would need heating, as you indicated. It is likely that they wouldn't be used right through the winter otherwise. In spring and summer the building could look very spectacular as it would stand out. It's kind of a seasonal thing- building appears in the warm season and disappears during the cold season. That is an interesting feature that could be exploited if done right.


  12. Robert Winefield16 Apr 2010, 16:40:00


    I've got no problem with the building as a building on a hillside practically anywhere in the world ~except~ for on a mountainside in Austria.

    A place where I believe that you get a snow-pack that lasts all winter because the temps (as in Sioux Falls) never lift above freezing for weeks and weeks on end and the snow from various snow storms just accumulates for weeks and weeks on end.

    Sure it would look great in the fall and summer and spring. But to me, an award winning design should look good and function well all year round in the place that it is in.

    Is that not the key plank of organic architecture?

    I'm sorry to harp on about winter and snow. But it is a big f---ing deal in places that get real snow.

    Until I went to the Dakotas I hadn't seen what real snow was like and how blasted paralyzing a blizzard actually is. I mean the locals use motor graders as snow ploughs!

    I tell you, if someone could invent and patent a road pavement that could stand up to the punishment that it gets in the upper Mid west, they'd be a very rich man.

    And if you are looking for a tidy investment - any company that mines and sells road salt in the USA... Especially now that global cooling is here.

  13. Robert

    I was thinking the building would partially disappear in winter as analogous to leaves and flowers not being on a tree during that cold season. Then comes the spring... Surely that's an "organic" approach? Might not be to everyone's taste though. Fair enough.

    Salting roads is not a very good idea. For a start it rots cars (leads to all sorts of problems). It doesn't really do much to solve the traction problem with cold rubber and partially liquified snow. Better to leave the car at home when it gets that bad and use an alternative. There are all sorts of things that work better in snow than the conventional car (but, as may be imagined, regulation prohibits most of them).

    Oh well.



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