Located in two cities, her studios are based in two very contrasting spaces, filled with an amazing team of talented international architects. The studio in Augsburg takes over an open-plan floor in a 1970s office tower, with far-reaching views. The office space in Passau is dark and moody, a restored townhouse on the banks of the Inn River. The different environments illustrate their blank canvas approach to every building. The practice has a strong emphasis on individually tailored buildings – she does not have a distinctive look that defines her. ‘Each new project is a new task. A process that starts all over again, an experiment with new coordinates, each object a prototype’.
The studio specialises in working with prefabricated wooden structures. She appreciates the wood’s blend of sustainability, patina, texture and flexibility which inevitably results in a rich character to her work. Working with wood means she places heavy emphasis on material quality, tactility and atmosphere.
My parents worked in and around architecture. My father was an engineer so for me it was ingrained. As a child, I always went to construction sites – I saw meetings happen and would play while he was talking to the site team. Now I have children myself, the passion has been passed on again which is so great to see developing! When you’re growing up around all this creativity, it gets imprinted on you and you learn to see differently from your peers.
We constantly experience impressions in our everyday lives - when coming into contact with a surface, when entering a room, when washing our hands. I am interested in the way we form our impressions of an atmosphere in a new environment. They’re highly emotional reactions and use all our senses as a whole. They are pre-conscious emotions, which also colour the later rational perceptions through touch, smell and hearing. Our task as architects and interior designers is to write the instructions for the holistic sensual perception of somebody seeing and interacting with space. We are only able to achieve this feeling when we trigger a combination of sensory experiences. A positive initial impression can later describe a more rational comprehension and processing of the environment.
My aim is to combine quality materials and textures - using the raw and unrefined alongside perfect surfaces and details. You have to be open to all your senses, to feel the touch, the smell and the sound. It’s a learnable skill, but you also have to have a sense for it. Everyday moments and experiences of materials within a space need to elicit sensory reactions.
What has really changed is the thinking about sustainability and using materials that don’t pollute and which can be recycled. I think a lot about this and I’m trying to choose materials that keep CO2 emissions to a minimum. I started working with wood right at the beginning of my career, about 25 years ago. I was working as carpenter when I was a student, so I learned early on to love the material. I really enjoy nature – I bike, swim, hike and also love to ski. I learnt that if you place a building in an environment, then you have to put something back by using sustainable materials, such as wood.
Yes, absolutely. For me it’s important that a building gets old like we do. It gets wrinkles – it has to show us its life. I always try to reduce a project down to one or two primary materials, like wood and copper.
Yes, right from my earliest projects. I’ve used VOLA products in kindergartens, schools, churches. Especially when working with children, everything they touch and experience is important. It’s about getting that feeling for quality on your skin that’s going to survive intense daily use.
People tend to feel that stone is all about security, safety and prestige and it’s not easy to change that kind of thinking. Today, we can already feel a change in society, especially with the emphasis on nature and the environment. More and more clients ask about building in wood, and there is great growth in the wooden construction industry.
As soon as the prefab wooden elements arrive on site, the shape of building becomes visible – you can even start to smell it! That’s a big change, because now we have to be much more organised in the planning stages, but it also makes it very quick to build – just a few days in some cases to get to the point where the structure is complete.
We've just finished a school renovation, making an original building from the 1970s much more energy efficient. I enjoy making spaces for everyone to use, really enhancing their quality of living, learning, and working. It is especially important because it might be the first time that the students encounter thoughtful architecture and we feel that everybody should have this opportunity.
I’ve decided to keep the studio a small firm, with an emphasis on sustainability and ethical architecture. I do everything with love!