atelier-r restores a castle in the Czech Republic


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Helfštýn castle is the Czech Republic’s second-largest castle, after the one in Prague. Located in the region of Olomouc, it was subjected to a major restoration by Czech architectural practice atelier-r.

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atelier-r restores a castle in the Czech Republic
We have a particularly fondness for renovation projects in historic buildings, and if they are beautiful castles as important as Helfštýn castle in the Olomouc region of the Czech Republic, the country’s second-largest castle after the one in Prague, that makes them even more interesting! In this case the project briefing was particularly complex, as the client, the region of Olomouc, wished to restore the ruins of the building to make it safe for visitors and build a new roof over the castle, all without altering its structure, according to the dictates of the national heritage organisation.
This may sound like trying to square the circle, but the architects of Czech studio atelier-r were happy to accept the challenge and apply today’s most advanced know-how to the job. They began by creating a 3D model based on thousands of drone photographs allowing them to map all the changes made to the plasterwork and masonry. On the basis of this solid information, atelier-r proposed contemporary additions that would be clearly recognisable in the historic construction. 
In this regard, a specific material was selected for each level in the building. The glass roof rests on steel beams to let daylight into the building, and is sanded to prevent excessively marked contrasts. Transparent glass is used only in the chapel, establishing a direct visual link with the heavens as a metaphor for paradise. Staircases and walkways made of corten steel wind around the old roof to offer unique vantage points over the castle and the landscape of the Moravian valley. The material is not only ideal for the project’s historic context, but ties in with the tradition of ironworking associated with Helfštýn castle. The walkways at ground level, on the other hand, are paved with polished concrete. Concrete panels laid in specific areas form a network of platforms and sidewalks, the edges of which are trimmed with Corten profiles, while the empty spaces between the walkways and the walls are filled in with gravel, combining the textures and irregular lines.
The design idea applied by the architects of atelier-r to the work on Helfštýn castle is based on respect for the historic building, with the precise goal of preserving its authentic character. With these well-considered additions, the castle gains an attractive new route where visiting tourists can learn about its history and enjoy unrivalled views from the upper walkways.
It is important to remember that good contemporary architecture does not compete with historic constructions, but creates a new cohesion in which all elements, old and new, deserve equal respect. Helfštýn castle is now ready to welcome new visitors while preserving the beauty of the past.

Christiane Bürklein

Project: www.atelier-r.cz
Location: Helfštýn, Czech Republic
Year: 2020
Images: boysplaynice


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