by Jerry ElengicalJul 04, 2022
Steirereck is a globally recognised name amongst gastronomical connoisseurs. The 2-Michelin-star Viennese restaurant has often been listed among the best restaurants in the world for more than a decade. 'Steirereck am Pogusch' is an offshoot of the restaurant in the Pogusch—a 1059 metre high pass in the Austrian Alps. Opposed to the city-bound address, the restaurant-hotel lies in a rural setting, surrounded by its own farmland. The project in Pogusch, Austria entailed renovating and refurbishing existing buildings and new structures to accommodate other facilities. The client’s vision for the project was to show how a gastronomical business can be both innovative and sustainable. The challenge for the Vienna-based PPAG architects was to conceive a design that enables an enhanced experience of nature while simultaneously facilitating a highly sophisticated and contemporary catering business. The consequent interventions led the existing buildings and extensions to form a small village ensemble on the scale of rural development in the mountain landscape.
The family-owned business is no stranger to creating an indelible architectural language for its restaurants. Their identity and philosophy have been embodied in the spaces inhabited by the restaurant before, combining traditional Austrian cuisine with cutting-edge techniques. The architectural design reflects the unique identity of the second generation which now manages the restaurant—gourmet chef Heinz Reitbauer and his wife Birgit. Its location in Vienna’s Stadtpark—extended in 2015—has a futuristic facade that softly blends into the context but is lively. In contrast, its interiors exude warmth and comfort in its materials and scale. PPAG architects, who won the design competition for the new formation of the Steirereck am Pogush in 2018, have also been behind the extension of the globally renowned address in Vienna's Stadtpark.
The philosophy of Steirereck manifests itself in a new way in the Alps. While the new striking buildings contrast in style with the traditional built environment, for the most part, these are built into the hillside and act as eye-catchers of nature and the pre-existing architecture. The former buildings—kitchen, lodging, stone house and wooden house are complemented by the new extensive catering areas such as the "Salettl" for fine dining, the fire kitchen (comprising a bar, grill, steam counter, farm store, regulars' table), the distillery, the kitchens with extensive preparation and staff areas, a kitchen garden in a small glass house, and staff and guest accommodations. While the new additions are resolutely modern, they do not impose on the existing landscape or the architecture. The structures are linked below the landscape and include workspaces for the staff. The architects describe these invisible spaces as a large hidden world in the background, which contributes to the guests' well-being, hardly appearing in postcard images. Completed in 2022, the complex now includes a farm, a biomass power plant, and various hospitality and gastronomical facilities.
The glasshouses are unmistakably the first structures that draw the focus of guests. These contrast against the traditional buildings and the rural setting, hinting at the innovative ethos of the restaurant. At an altitude of 1050 metre above sea level, these are crucial for many features and activities including crop cultivation alongside guest accommodations. The glasshouses are of different sizes but also hold distinct purposes. The larger one, the cold greenhouse—with minimum temperatures close to the freezing point—is used for year-round plant cultivation. Along with unconventional overnight accommodations, a bathing area is located beneath it. The small warm glasshouse is a greenhouse (approximately 22 degrees Celsius) to grow fresh herbs and spices used in the kitchen. It also offers an intimate backstage area for culinary exploration and experimentation. The kitchens connect to the glasshouses via atria, and the latter allows for natural light to brighten up the kitchen interiors. The unglazed ceilings of the glasshouses are reminiscent of the futuristic facade of the hotel in Stadtpark.
The pre-existing buildings house parts of the kitchen—the stone house from the 17th century and the wooden house were renovated to bring them close to their original condition. The useful portions were preserved but widely refurbished. Despite the significant construction work, the topography was altered as little as possible. The excavated soil was returned to the surrounding landscape. The newer buildings with the old ones, and the pathways that unfold between them, express the essence of vernacular architecture. The transitional spaces amid zones harmoniously blend them despite the radical nature of the newer structures.
The bar and fire kitchen are a part of the main kitchen that is accessible to guests, providing them with the experience of watching their food being cooked right in front of their eyes. This activity takes on a more communal identity compared to the more intimate fine dining activities. While the interiors are predominantly wooden, the striking black open kitchen is the protagonist by contrast. Natural light seeps into the space with the expansive glazing and skylights. The largely columnless expanse is made possible by a Keilsteg ceiling, which is lightweight yet able to support heavy loads. With the slabs installed in different directions, the trim cuts—usually hidden—are made visible. Their structural elements transform into a visual design facet by installing lights in the section for the guest area.
The Salettl, or gazebo, extends from the stone and wooden house, forming a collective of differentiated dining rooms that create distinctive ambiences. As against the traditional buildings, the Salettl boasts a futuristic mix of a heavy roof and expansive glass walls. It is open and transparent, providing a panoramic view of the encompassing nature. The structure is spatially dynamic, facilitated by wooden slat curtains that can be folded into the ceiling when required. They allow for numerous spatial configurations based on requirements to be set up quickly and easily.
Embedded in the core philosophy of Steirereck, sustainability became an essential factor in the architecture and the utilitarian processes of the restaurant and hotel. Measures for it included reduced consumption (diverse on-site food production methods, circular economy—composting, ecological selection of building materials), renewable energy supply (heating, cooling, electricity), and reduced mobility-related energy and CO2 consumption. The new design allows the establishment to be an almost energy-self-sufficient, resource-saving hospitality architecture project despite its isolation in the mountains.
PPAG architects also designed numerous details and furniture, giving it a cohesive differentia. Alongside world-renowned gastronomy, these features become pivotal to a memorable experience. The project is a part of the research program “City of the Future” of the Austrian Federal Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology. The project’s similarities in design philosophies can be drawn with landmark projects such as the Louvre Museum by IM Pei and Port House by Zaha Hadid. The architecture of Steirereck am Pogusch seeks convergence with the culinary arts and attempts to not only highlight the experience but also enhance it with thoughtfully curated spatial elements.
Name: Steirereck am Pogusch
Location: Pogusch, Styria
Area: 3700 sqm
Year of completion: 2022
Architect: Anna Popelka, Georg Poduschka, Paul Fürst, Lukas Ortner, Christian Wegerer, Jakub Dvorak, Billie Murphy, Jonas Steinmetz, Maximilian Keil - PPAG architects
Structural design: Werkraum Ingenieure
Fire protection planning: Kunz DIE INNOVATIVEN BRANDSCHUTZPLANER
Infiltration concept and soil expertise: Geologie Weixelberger
Vegetation concept glass houses: Green4Cities
Local construction supervision: Viereck Architekten
Building physics: Rosenfelder & Höfler consulting engineers
Lighting design: Ing. Johannes Jungel-Schmid
Building services planning: TBH Ingenieur
Landscape architecture: Client and Viereck Architekten