by Jerry ElengicalSep 27, 2021
Revitalising a building that is integrated into its social and geographic context over an extended period of time is by no means a cut-and-dry proposition. Striking a balance between celebrating the merits of a pre-existing architecture while reworking its deficits in a manner that remains true to the original, leaves little room for error. In Bohinj, Slovenia, a hotel that was the product of three decades' worth of construction conducted with limited foresight into its final appearance, served as a telling illustration of this premise for local firm OFIS Architects, who were commissioned by the property’s owners to carry out a complete overhaul of the design. Situated near the foothills of Mt. Triglav - the highest peak in the Julian Alps – and within the Triglav National Park, the structure is blessed with serene views of Lake Bohinj in its vicinity.
In response to the task before them, the Ljubljana and Paris-based firm sought to honour the region’s cultural roots while building on the existing piece of hospitality design that had embedded itself into the landscape of Triglav National Park. They envisioned a new persona for the hotel - one entrenched in the celebration of Slovenian traditional crafts and vernacular architecture. A multitude of collaborations with local suppliers and contractors ensued from this grounding principle which moulded the core essence of the hotel’s renovation process.
The new façade design retains much of the old building’s form, but adds an extension with a double height lobby in addition to a layered framework of larch wood slats. With emphasis on diagonal linearity, this new look for the façade quite forcibly hammers home the architects' pursuit of a natural, earthy appearance. “The basic volume was preserved with a new structural envelope composed of a wooden framework. In addition to creating new balconies and changing the overall massing, the frames also provide structural protection against the region’s frequent earthquakes while incorporating gutters, wires, and lightning rods,” remarks OFIS Architects in an official statement.
While the old façade was relatively austere in its composition, the renovation introduces a sense of rhythm into the building’s visage without entirely losing sight of the original silhouette. Even the gabled form of the toplar - a Slovenian hay rack and one of the most commonly observed building typologies in the country, is resheathed in an envelope of timber. The triangular roof frames also reference the terrain of mountain ranges in the background.
Within the confines of the new structure, the underlying theme centred on vernacular traditions further manifests in a sequence of bespoke furniture that includes chairs, benches, curtains, upholstery, and lighting design elements “which were all uniquely designed and interpreted especially for this hotel,” as per the architects. In the new double-height entrance lobby, this becomes all the more evident. Larch wood used in the wall finishes also finds its way into fragmented ceiling installations, seating, display pieces, and periodically interspersed log tables. From here, visitors are led towards the hotel’s 69 rooms, which include units for single, double, and family occupancy. The cosy interior design incorporates panoramic balconies, innovative wall light fixtures and lamps shaped to resemble tree branches. Long corridors connect the guest rooms, with perception-defying visual artwork integrated into the enclosing surfaces, creating mesmerising illusions and geometric patterns.
Alternatively, wood-finished walls and grey terrazzo floors constitute the look for most of the other shared spaces. Emphasis is laid on modularity and linearity throughout the design, as seen in the slatted ceilings and partitions in seating areas and booths. Highlights among communal spaces include the restaurant and breakfast room, a small congress hall, a retro-bistro with a traditional terracotta stove, and a club with a wine shop, which extend the design’s relaxing ambience - teeming with references to nature. The hotel also hosts a wellness centre with a new heated outdoor pool design, as the old pool was replaced by a large fireplace area for social events in the renovation process. Throughout Hotel Bohinj’s walls, fabrics, graphics, and glazed surfaces, there is an underlying theme that outlines the tale of the first four men to summit Mt. Triglav in 1778. Other elements of storytelling implanted within the design include the patches of black stone, embedded into the floors of the entrance and lobby, as a tribute to Mr. Max - a former feline icon of the premises, who had disappeared shortly before the renovations.
While much of the timber is freshly procured, the use of local sources offset the design’s carbon footprint to some extent, alongside the architects’ choice to enhance the existing hotel design as far as possible rather than building anew. Elaborating this intent in a press release, the architects share, “The greenest building is the one that is already built. That is why we decided not to demolish the existing building, but rather renovate it. In doing so, we kept the existing building materials instead of letting them go to waste and used much less new concrete, which all together reduced the carbon footprint by up to 30 per cent.” Sustainability and energy efficiency were both imperative tenets to the designers, and these are reflected in their use of geo-probe heat pumps alongside convectors in the floor heating, as well as energy conscious lighting systems and the use of felt upholstered chairs made from recycled plastic bottles.
Hotel Bohinj’s revitalisation is intended to serve as an earthy respite for visitors, amid breathtaking natural scenery, while it is also a reminder for Slovenia to treasure its building traditions and indigenous design practices, which have gradually relegated under the homogenising influences of globalisation and modernism.
Name: Hotel Bohinj Revitalisation
Location: Bohinj, Slovenia
Gross Floor Area: 5800 sqm
Architect: OFIS arhitekti
Interior Design: OFIS arhitekti
Project Team: Rok Oman, Špela Videčnik,Borut Bernik, Rok Vrenko, Giulia Sgro