Completed in 2020 by architecture firm Atelier-r, the Helfštýn Castle Palace’s renovation in the Czech Republic complements the historical building with contemporary architecture that focuses on practical uses. The respect towards the historical building pursues an effort to preserve the castle’s authentic character.
Helfštýn Castle Palace Technical Information
- Architects1-8: Atelier-r
- Principles: Miroslav Pospíšil, principal architect; Martin Karlík, principal project manager
- Location: Helfštýn by Týn nad Bečvou, Czech Republic
- Client: Olomouc Region
- Topics: Castles, Renovation, Weathering Steel
- Area: 3,000 m2
- Project Year: 2015-2016
- Project Year: 2020
- Photographs: © BoysPlayNice
Newly added contemporary elements are clearly recognizable in the historical construction. We worked with three basic materials, one for each level of the building. The roofing is made of glass on steel beams, the staircases and footbridges have been made of corten steel and the ground floor paths are made of polished concrete.
– Atelier-r Architects
Helfštýn Castle Palace Photographs
Text by the Architects
Rising high above the Moravian Gate valley, Helfštýn Castle is the second-largest complex in the Czech Republic right after Prague Castle. Helfštýn was established in the 14th century. In 2014 the Renaissance palace ruins had to close down due to severe safety hazards such as falling masonry and remains degradation.
The castle owner’s primary requirement, Olomouc Region, was to renovate the palace and construct a new roof. The National Heritage Institute insisted on the preservation of the building in the state of ruin. The roof was allowed only partially, and it could only go as high as the level of the peripheral walls.
Project planning was unique. The 3D model based on thousands of photographs from a drone allowed us to map all the types of plaster and masonry modifications.
We aspired to go beyond the technical reconstruction assignment. We strived to complement the historical building with the contemporary architecture that would focus on both practical uses and gain an aesthetic appeal.
To immerse the visitors in the original renaissance palace’s historical development, we inserted new sightseeing routes into the already existing gaps in the ruins, connecting the ground floor with the palace’s newly accessible higher levels.
Newly added contemporary elements are clearly recognizable in the historical construction. We worked with three basic materials, one for each level of the building. The roofing is made of glass on steel beams, the staircases and footbridges have been made of corten steel, and the ground floor paths are made of polished concrete.
The flat glass roofs have been inserted in between the walls of the ruins. The wide-open sky was the key inspiration when choosing the material for the roof. Using glass provides perfect daylight conditions to the interior of the palace. We have chosen to work with the sanded glass for a couple of reasons. It is easy on the maintenance, and the flat dispersed light compliments the exhibitions inside the palace. The chapel roof was an exception. The clear glass roof symbolizes heaven quite literally.
We have put a roof on five chosen chambers only. The corten footbridges serve as a roof for the staircases. We intentionally left out some of the spaces to enhance the impressive ruins’ spirit and encourage the visitors to look up to the sky.
What once used to be a roof has now become the new sightseeing route. Being this close to the original palace’s construction details and as high as the top of the walls allows the public to admire the historical significance of the sight and the sheer views of the surrounding region.
It was crucial to choose a material that would be timeless. Corten is a special iron alloy that undergoes corrosion, matures, and matches the texture of the old historical walls. Moreover, Helfštýn Castle is well-renowned for its iron craftsmanship tradition; therefore, it made perfect sense to choose corten to work with.
Polished fair-faced concrete boards were laid down into specific areas on the palace’s ground floor to form a network of platforms and pavements. Rigorously straight Corten profiles have finished the concrete pavement edges. The gaps between the pavements and the walls have been filled with gravel, which ties together the uneven textures and lines.
Past and Present
Our concept is based on respect towards the historical building, and it pursues a major effort to preserve the castle’s authentic character. The palace gained an attractive sightseeing route that allows the visitors to learn about the building history and enjoy the picturesque views from the footbridges on the castle’s upper levels, what once used to be a roof. The contemporary architecture does not compete with the historical building; rather, it creates a cohesive unit in which all the elements, old and new, go hand in hand.
Helfštýn Castle Palace Plans
Helfštýn Castle Palace Image Gallery
Atelier-r is one of the leading Olomouc-based architecture studios, found by architect Miroslav Pospisil. The collective has been striving for top quality contemporary architecture and urbanism with the primary focus on the purpose of the building and the impact on its surroundings.
- Design team: Robert Randys, Lucie Rohelová, Adéla Tomečková, Milena Koblihová, Daria Johanesová / atelier-r
- Structural stability of historical constructions: Ladislav Klusáček
- Structural stability of newly inserted constructions: Jan Lukáš,
- Rehabilitation of the damp parts of historical walls: Pavel Fára
- Contractors: HOCHTIEF CZ and ARCHATT PAMÁTKY
- Steel and corten construction: Zámečnictví Sloupský
- Glass construction: Bubeník 1913
- Concrete floors: AAP hranice