Designing With Mosaic

authors Gasparin & Meier Architekten
project Senior Citizens Residence, Nonntal, Salzburg, Austria
written by Vera Grimmer


In the project of the home for the elderly on the green edge of Salzburg’s historical core, Gasparin & Meier architects were confronted with all the advantages of the site, but also the substantial restrictions and the challenging programme of a completely new organization concept of this type of social institutions. The spacious park with the view of the Hohensalzburg fortress, one of the oldest and largest European medieval fortresses, is a rare and nearly ideal location upon which, more than a hundred years ago, a monumental, symmetrical palace with three wings was built for the care of the elderly and, since then, has had the same function. Salzburg’s city administration decided to place apartments for single parents and sheltered apartments for the elderly within the palace and build the new home in the immediate vicinity. An EU-wide application procedure led to the selection of 10 studios for the following competition. Gasparin & Meier architects won with the project that establishes a relationship towards the imposing historical palace and the natural ambience of the park. They responded to the monumentality of the palace with a free, organic form, and to the environment with a pavilion typology. The project consists of two fragmented perimeter pavilions joined together with a transparent core.

Yet, the nature of these design decisions is not formalistic; the architects developed the project from the inside out through a very complex design process. This process is multi-layered, and all of the layers contribute equally to the success of the whole – the complicated floor plan geometry defined by a series of circles and ellipses, the morphology characterised by the fragmentation of the façade, the programme organisation that results in dynamic spatiality, the selection of materials and textures, as well as the numerous relaxed and well thought-through details that make the real face of architecture. All of the mentioned elements are part of a mosaic and they contribute to the credibility of the whole.