Modern architecture meets an idyllic mountain setting
FACADE MADE OF STONE GREY EXPANDED METAL
How do you create a charming contrast? By placing modern architecture in an idyllic mountain setting. That's what happened in the small village of Jaufental in Ratschings, a municipality in South Tyrol. With a population of just 440, Jaufental recently gained a new extravagant building: a vicarage (also called a "widum") the facade of which was cladded completely using powder-coated expanded metal. The new vicarage has an irresistible appeal but the harsh weather must remain outside.
Who dares wins: expanded metal cladding
There are places where the world is still intact. One of them is Jaufental in the South Tyrolean municipality of Ratschings. The area is characterised by mountain pastures, coniferous forests and rustic farmsteads. Tourism exists, albeit on a moderate scale. You certainly don't expect to see modern architecture in such a place but it's there now in the form of a new vicarage with expanded metal cladding. The construction work started in May 2014. The official opening took place at the start of September 2016. How did this unusual project come about? The municipality of Ratschings wanted to build new premises for the local clubs and the parish office. The original vicarage was showing its age. After the demolition of the old building, a new building was to be constructed in the same place. The architecture firm Lunz Zöschg & Partner in Bolzano was awarded the commission to plan the new building and produced a daring design: a cubic building with trapezoidal windows in different shapes and sizes, and with a building shell made of expanded metal. The municipality also showed that it was surprisingly keen to experiment.
Expanded aluminium as facade protection
The architects looked for a material which protects the new vicarage against the harsh weather conditions in the mountains. Another aim was to make the appearance of the new building reminiscent of the perforated facade of the old vicarage. The municipality of Ratschings carried out a public invitation to tender for the project. The contract for the facade work was awarded to the company Überegger from South Tyrol. The company's main line of business is actually door manufacturing for industry. But the project appealed to Überegger in some way. One thing therefore led to another and the company gained the contract. Why was MEVACO expanded aluminium, rhomb 76x35x11, chosen? Daniel Überegger, Managing Director, told us the reason: "It is much easier to machine than other metals." Apart from the rhomb shape and the mesh size, the architect made no stipulations. The attachment method was also proposed by the company Überegger. The tradesmen did not have to use great powers of persuasion. "We cladded a model with MEVACO expanded metal and presented it to the architect." Agreement was then quickly reached.
Truly elegant installation
Installation itself was a real challenge because different trades had to be coordinated in terms of the requirements and naturally also in regard to the agreed timetable. After all, coordination of an external facade does not only involve an architect and a builder. For example, a plumber and a carpenter were part of the project. It was important to create a clean finish with the expanded metal and ensure that no water can penetrate the building. "We surrounded the substructure made of solid wooden panels with the expanded metal – 360° around the entire building," said Überegger. "It was a tricky task to achieve elegant installation. After all, we had to observe the same height and the same distances everywhere." Six of Überegger's nine employees ensured that everything ran smoothly. But: "good planning is only half the work," assured the company boss with a smile.
Expanded metal with edges and corners, and an individual design
The special architectural aspects of the building also had to be considered: the windows with their different shapes and sizes. "Strictly speaking, there aren't any windows, they are light openings," corrected Daniel Überegger. "The windows and doors are located around two metres behind the facade." This means that you are almost inside the building before you enter it. You are in a kind of protected lobby. This also applies to the upper floors. The harsh weather must remain outside, something which is a great advantage during the cold winters in Jaufental. Preparing the expanded metal was very complex. Although MEVACO had already produced and supplied special dimensions, nothing was off-the-peg. That's because the diagonals and corners had to be cut out on every individual sheet. To this end, the company purchased a special circular saw. "It saved us a great deal of working time. The investment therefore quickly amortised."
Straightforward, but effective!
And what does the expert think about the end result? "I like the interaction between the straightforward facade and the trapezoidal light openings," said Managing Director Daniel Überegger. "You would actually expect to see such a building, if anywhere, in a town. We enjoyed the project. It is a great sense of achievement to have implemented the customer's wishes precisely both in terms of the building's function and its aesthetics." That's because this aspect is especially important to the craft enterprise along with customer proximity, quality and punctuality. "In this case you have to listen to the customer, talk to one another a great deal and cooperate closely." This obviously proved to be a success with the clergy house in Jaufental.
Versatility on four levels
The new vicarage has everything since the unconventional building is designed for different functions. The minister's apartment and the parish office are located on the first floor. Two retirement apartments were also integrated on the second floor. But that's not all; the ground floor contains, for example, a drum practice room, a lounge, a youth centre and a music rehearsal room. Church utensils and statues are kept in the store room in the basement. The new "multi-purpose widum" is a great asset for the 440 inhabitants of Jaufental.