In 2016, Bernardo Bader Architects undertook the ambitious task of transforming the 200-year-old Salgenreute Chapel in Krumbach, Austria, into a stunning minimalist sanctuary. Despite the need for renovation work, the architects faced a significant challenge due to the structural limitations of the building. As a result, the team opted for a radical departure from the chapel’s previous incarnation, instead creating a new and entirely different place of worship that would bring the community of Krumbach together in a new way.
The result was a stunning example of contemporary architecture that blends seamlessly with the chapel’s historic surroundings. The new design features a simple and elegant wooden structure, which maximizes the use of natural light and emphasizes the beauty of the chapel’s original stonework. Inside, the space is minimalistic yet warm, with a central altar that serves as the focal point of the sanctuary. The chapel’s new design has earned widespread acclaim for its innovative and thoughtful approach, which respects the history of the building while creating a new and inspiring space for worship.
Salgenreute Chapel Technical Information
- Architects: Bernardo Bader Architekten
- Typology: Religious Architecture / Chapel
- Location: Salgenreute, 6942 Krumbach, Bregenzerwald, Austria
- Project year: 2016
- Materials: Wood, Limestone
- Images: © Adolf Bereuter, © Bernardo Bader Architekten
The sun is going to change the wooden facade – it will turn darker, black in the south, silver-grey in the north, just like the old farmhouses from the area
– Bernardo Bader Architekten
Salgenreute Chapel Photographs
Article by Bernardo Bader Architects
The Salgenreute Chapel is located on an alpine conglomerate near Krumbach. The old chapel could no longer be restored, though it was not the aim to redo the existing structure completely. The chapel is a free-standing building displaying expressive architecture. It was the result of a creative process of planning and construction, characterized by an outstanding collaboration. In a concerted effort of several years of jointly planning and building, an exemplary project created by the inhabitants and artisans emerged. Only when more than a hundred people see their work time and organizational skills as quality and added value of “doing” can this bring about the opportunity to realize such a project and help fund it.
The chapel is built of wood and stone. The sunlight will turn it dark over time, black on the south side and silver-gray on the north side, much like old farmhouses. The basic shape harks back to the existing 200-year-old chapel and includes a main aisle and an apse. The space’s shape is new – a steep rising spatial fold made out of wood, cantilevered above the ground. It generates appeal without the traditional tower top via its significance and symbolic value to the place and the overall theme.
The limestone foundation from Alberschwende was placed as a dry-stone wall, while the walls and ceilings above feature hand-sawn larch shingles to protect against the elements. The recessed entrance creates a protective porch. The wrought brass door leads into the building interior, which is characterized by both an air of solemnness and striking simplicity. Twelve frames prevent the folded cross-laminated timber structure from bending out of shape and accentuate the height variations. The wall paneling, floors, and simple pews are of untreated fir.
The sidelight – entering through the apse glazing – makes the white stained, rough-sawn wood paneling in the altar area appear like a white textile covering. The mother God’s statue, which originates from the existing building, is not centrally arranged like in traditional concept but is on the side. This leaves an unobstructed view straight ahead through the apse and draws the eyes out onto the natural landscape. Whoever enters the chapel leaves solid ground and proceeds on a reflective journey.
Salgenreute Chapel Plans
Salgenreute Chapel Gallery
About Bernardo Bader Architects
Bernardo Bader is an Austrian architect from Krumbach currently based in Dornbirn. He studied architecture at the Innsbruck Technical University. After receiving his Diploma Engineer degree in 2001, he founded his own architectural office. His work investigates how architecture can be embedded in regional building culture and based on local architectural grammar. His projects bear witness to the brilliance of handcraft, deep care of tectonic detail, and sensitivity to the local context.
Bader is a Member of Advisory Design Commissions and the Advisory Committee for Urban Contemplation in the Region of Vorarlberg. Since 2012 he has been holding a lecture position at the University of Liechtenstein in Vaduz. Besides numerous local timber construction and client awards, he received several prestigious awards – including the Weissenhof Architectural Furtherance Prize 2007 for young Architects in Stuttgart, Germany, and the Piranesi Award 2013. He was nominated for the DETAIL Prize 2012 and the Mies van der Rohe Award 2013.
In 2013 he received the Aga Khan Award for Architecture.