Steirereck is one of the best restaurants in the world. The need for more internal space and the ever-increasing demands placed on this sector meant that a comprehensive reformulation became necessary despite renovations being completed only a few years before.
In 2012, there was an invited competition, which aimed to find a solution. The contrasting pairs of words that were to describe the design reveal the high expectations of the clients, the Reitbauer family. These words included “unique and elegant, timeless and innovative.”
In order to develop a closer understanding of the task at hand, we completed in-depth research into the topic of food from the perspective of both catering staff and customers by slipping into various different roles. We saw that, in comparison to other typologies such as that of housing, the historical development of the dining space has been less differentiated. The classical dining space is essentially a container, which is then filled with tables. Our suggestion provides the missing link. When designing the new dining space, we worked outward from individual tables. What used to be a terrace leading to a children’s playground is now a system of pavilions branching out finger-like from a precise table arrangement. Every table is placed at the edge against the façade and offers varied visual connections to both the outside and to the other tables.
The pavilions are constructed out of individual components made of industrial wood, providing the tables with a protective backing, a home for the evening.
The proximity to the park was of particular importance to the clients. Large electric sash windows, and the slightly reflective metal façade that appears to be coated with dew, create a sense of visual closeness, providing guests with the highest levels of acoustic and thermal comfort while at the same time giving them the feeling that they are sitting outside and yet also at home. The pavilions lead to courtyards on the same level, which are connected to the park via seating steps that signalize both embeddedness and, at the same time, a borderline. One of the gullies leads to the entrance. The herb garden can be found on the roof.
The mimicry architecture of the pavilions creates a connection to the light architecture often found in parks.
The existing listed dining space on the side of the Wiental will undergo a complete change. Curved, partially rotatable metal panels bring the material of the pavilions’ façades into the interior space, creating rooms of different proportions and sizes when needed. The ceiling floats over the heads of the guests like a horizontal contour map, the mountains and valleys making the window lintels disappear, effortlessly negotiating the different positions and heights of the rotating elements. Where the listed nature of the structure allows, frameless, contorted elements made entirely of glass will be inserted. The combination of new and existing elements allows the room to appear simultaneously old and new.
A middle section connects the different areas and levels and will be crossed by staff and guests alike. The algorithmic tile pattern, which is at no point identical, reminds the viewer of a kitchen, giving the guest the sense that they, too, are involved in the inner workings of the restaurant. Marking the way are cabinets used by the kitchen staff containing interesting objects, which, together with the seating provided at intervals, encourage guests to stop and spend time there. Passing seed and cheese cabinets, the route in the basement leads to the toilets, where a whole new world is revealed. The crystalline shape stems from the positioning of the toilet pans and washbasins and is made visually perplexing by contradicting, geometrical paintings.
Under the pavilions is a generous kitchen extension housing sinks, pot and pan cleaning area, food preparation area, patisserie, washing facilities, laboratory kitchen, and social room, all of which are light despite their location and lit partially by Solatubes® in the daytime. In the lower levels are also extensive new areas for the building services.
All aspects have been discussed in great detail, the numerous suggestions bringing us ever closer to the appropriate solution. Many experimental elements were created throughout the process, in terms of both construction and cabinetry: the tables and the stove in the smoking area with its chambers of different temperatures visible through glass bubbles, the large reception desk in the entrance area created from a special mixture of wood and synthetic material, the handbag bench that can also form a screen, if needed, etc. In these elements, we have attempted to combine natural and high-tech materials as well as new and existing furniture. At various points, images of the 2004 renovations can also be seen.
Within a planning and build time of only two years, a project has been realized that combines many very different areas with an extension to create an entirely new building. A large part of construction work took place while the restaurant was still open for business, creating an additional challenge for all those involved. During the construction period, the building was accessed from above, giving guests a view of the building site. The construction fence erected specifically for this area was a building in itself.
The result is something new but also cozy, something that merges into the background but yet is, at the same time, a strong architectural statement.