The Ruhestein is a mountain pass between the Murgtal and Achertal valleys in the northern Black Forest. Further, it is the exact location of the new national park center: a very special building that is so harmoniously integrated into the surrounding forest that it might well have been there forever. The design by the firm Sturm & Wartzeck from Dipperz, which won the architecture competition at the start of 2015, was inspired by the forest and the exposed dead wood often found on the forest floor. The eight elongated, crisscrossing blocks of the building are modelled on tree trunks and carefully blend into the existing forest. The highlight is the Skywalk, an open footbridge that connects the visitor center to a 34-meter-high viewing tower at an angle of 15 degrees, affording a unique view of the pine and spruce forest.
The cladding on the 6,500 square meter façade is made up of spruce slates from the forests managed by the state forestry service ForstBW. The hugely complex bearing structure with its hybrid construction of wood, steel, and girders demanded the utmost precision and quality. This was compounded by the demanding conditions of a construction site at a height of over 900 meters which experiences some difficult weather conditions.
The barrier-free national park center extends across five floors along the steep, sloping site at the foot of the Ruhestein. At its heart is the permanent exhibition about the forest, its lifecycles, and its seasons over an area of some 1,000 square meters. The exhibition expands on the idea of the crisscrossing building blocks and combines them to create a tour that is not only horizontal, but also vertical. For example, visitors are guided from the entrance level down into the lowest block to the roots of a pine tree. The new information center uses state-of-the-art media to explain the interconnections between various species, the impact we have as humans, and provides extensive perspectives over space and time. A cinema, a restaurant with a sun deck, and a shop offer visitors a high-quality experience. The room of tranquility – located at the end of the exhibition – invites guests to linger and contemplate.
The building as a whole exudes a tranquil atmosphere that extends into the sanitary areas. Tiles in natural tones, white ceramics, and light wood inform the aesthetic here. The washbasins, toilets, and urinals of the Architec and ME by Starck ranges, both timeless classics within the Duravit range, fit perfectly into the overall ambience. Similarly, the same concept is continued with Architec Vital throughout the barrier-free toilets.
Facts at a glance:
Planning and construction: 2015-2020
Usable floor space: around 3,200 square meters (3,000 national park center, 200 Skywalk)
Permanent exhibition: around 1,000 square meters
Temporary exhibition: around 150 square meters
Construction costs: €35.5 million