There are many times when I wish I could share things with my dad. He passed away over 2 years ago so I wasn’t able to tell him about our trip to Copenhagen, following in his footsteps from when he was a student of architecture in the 1950s. I couldn’t show him photographs from our holiday in Sweden: again the Scandinavian architecture which he so admired throughout his life would have been of great interest to him.
Our recent trip to Austria was less about buildings and far more about the natural beauty of the lakes and mountains. And yet, virtually next door to our apartment on Lake Ossiach was the most striking building I have ever seen, sitting somewhat incongruously by the lake shore.
|The exterior of the Steinhaus|
The Steinhaus (Stone House) is located on the edge of Steindorf (Stone Village). It was a labour of love for its architect, Gunther Domenig, who wanted to create something which would stretch him to the limits of his imagination and skill in the field of architecture. It took over 20 years for his dreams to be realised, each step fraught with difficulties as opinion regarding the building was, not surprisingly, not always positive. Whereas many thought it a blot on the landscape, Domenig saw it as far more representative of the region of Carinthia, designing it to resemble the protruding rocks of the surrounding mountains. He objected to the ‘hypocrisy of pseudo regional architecture.’
There is some debate as to whether he really intended to live in the property or whether this was purely an architectural vision. Either way, on its eventual completion, in 2008, the Steinhaus proved to be an iconic building in the area, a place for concerts and film showings, certainly not a folly by the water’s edge.
Visiting the building on a hot summer’s day, the ruggedness of the concrete structure is softened by the light finding its way inside via curiously designed windows. It is odd but it is quite playful and its quirkiness made me smile. There are very narrow corridors with slivers of light at the end, heavy concrete steps leading to oddly-shaped rooms – some walls painted a deep red, one with a bed in the middle. There is a working shower and toilet (so maybe he did intend to live here) and outside is a lush lawn with piles of stones and a gazebo, ready for some impromptu dining?
I decided to find out more about Gunther Domenig and discovered he was born in Austria on 6 July 1934, two days before my father. He died in June 2012, only a few short years after his life’s work became a realisation. His experience as an architect must have mirrored my dad’s, both learning about new forms of design in the post-war years, experimenting with different materials in the 1960s and 70s. They died just a year apart.
I can’t share any of this with Dad but I can share it with you. Here are some photographs of the Steinhaus which will give you a flavour of this extraordinary building.
|Looking up at the ceiling|
|Ready for a concert in the main hall
|Rory standing in window recess|
|The smallest room in the house (all in working order!)
|The garden running down to the lake.|