from the ruins

A dilapidated historic farmhouse
has been transformed into an avant-garde architectural concept
featuring a house within a house.

If there is a natural link between authenticity and avant-garde in architectural design, its name is Peter Haimerl. The architect, who now lives in Munich, grew up on a farm and has already transformed many farmhouses into livable conceptual art using exposed concrete. Take for example his own award-winning weekend home Cilli in the Bavarian Forest, which he built in 2008. Or when Haimerl put the small town of Blaibach in the region of Oberpfalz on the 21st-century architectural map in 2014 with a highly acclaimed concert hall made of granite and – once again – concrete.

Haimerl thus proved to be the right choice when it came to the spectacular rebirth of the oldest building in the center of the Munich suburb of Riem – the Schuster farmhouse, which was built around 1750. The client was Stefan Höglmaier, head of real estate company Euroboden, which has repeatedly worked with renowned architects like David Chipperfield, David Adjaye or Raumstation Architects on its residential projects.

The two were guided by a seemingly simple idea when deciding on the future of the listed, run-down ensemble of a farmhouse and adjoining barn in Alt-Riem. The house would be transformed into a rentable two-family home with each "half" measuring 150 square meters.

Ornaments, floorboards, proportions – Haimerl and Höglmaier salvaged whatever could be salvaged. Some of the coatings of paint from the past two centuries were left on the walls and joists. A not-too-regular, but also not-too-rough lime plaster – as was preferred in older times – was applied to the façades. The Madonna relief above the entrance door was restored. The original silver fir floors of the parlors were left untreated in some areas. New stairs, benches, doors and built-in furniture made of spruce wood were added.

Haimerl carried out the “split” with the utmost courage, creating a two-story dwelling from the still-intact structure, albeit with a fashionable concrete bathroom including light well and a "floating" great hall with a fireplace and a kitchen area. With the blessing of the conservationists, the architect inserted a cube made of concrete, rotated by 45 degrees and invisible from the outside, into the roof area where no substance remained. This is where the second dwelling now resides, full of corners and edges.

An avant-garde concept was transformed into an imaginative reality in Schuster's farmhouse in Munich.

Like an avant-garde space tamer, Haimerl experimented in the concrete block with radical prism shapes, creating a split-level living environment accentuated by light effects. There is no longer a sense of being in a farmhouse; rather, the feeling is more reminiscent of a Depeche Mode concert stage. The stepped levels create an impression of space and a theatrical ambiance. Haimerl calls the free-standing stainless-steel kitchen on a platform "Schwarzkuchl" because it reminds him of dark cave, similar to the smokehouses that were traditionally located in front of farmhouses.

There is plenty of opportunity in this aged new building for pinching fingers or hitting heads. Haimerl is a kind of constructional annalist who doesn't like to hide the more forbidding aspects of rural life. Then again, anyone who can puzzle out such complex geometries could also be regarded as a visionary aesthete. The mottled needle felt glued to the wall is beautifully minimalistic – and unsurpassably practical for the acoustics and for protecting the slanted surfaces.

Yet there is also an inexorable link to the life of the farmer in this very modern living environment. "Our projects are always a historical rendering of the subject matter", says Haimerl. "We retrieve the lost history through songs, writings and art. That is very important to me." A photo story created in the building shell using the embodiment of a horse and a small publication chronicle the story of the "Schuster farmers". As the Demmel family only had around eight acres to farm back in 1830, they topped up their income as village cobblers. After the expansion of Munich Riem Airport, the last Demmel farmer became the owner of a racing stable with 15 horses in 1968.

An extraordinary project by two extraordinary designers: project developer Stefan Höglmaier and architect Peter Haimerl have helped the old house achieve a spectacular rebirth.

And yet another reminder. While there isn't a lot of space around the house, there is a "threshing garden" behind the former hay barn in addition to the entrance area with concrete slabs and a small lawn. Two small pear trees grow here now, as symbols of the cobbler/farmer and his wife.

And finally, Haimerl also managed to resolve a personal issue for him. "It often bothered me why new owners immediately erected a fence around old farmhouses", he says as he glances impishly into the early autumn sun. Any why? "Because it's not fencing that should be found in front of a genuine old-Bavarian farm, but rather a dung heap! Always." As the son of a farmer, Haimerl naturally knows this all too well. And because he is also as much at home in contemporary architecture as he is in a farmhouse, he is now about to show us his brand new high-tech dung heap in front of the newly reconstructed farm in Alt-Riem. A large "box of wonder" that unfolds in a variety of ways in front of the entrance. It acts as a storage location for waste bins as well as bicycles and gardening equipment, and also as an alcove with a movable roof. In addition, the unpretentious and elegant wooden box shields the property from overly curious on-lookers. In exactly the same way as the dung heap did in the old days.

Text: Alexander Hosch

Photos: Euroboden

An extraordinary project by two extraordinary designers: Project developer Stefan Höglmaier and architect Peter Haimerl have helped the old house achieve a spectacular rebirth.

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