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New Path in Old Wood

How can components from an old knitted building be reused to give an architectural project a linear typology with a clear tectonic and structural expression?

Mustafa Karaaslan addressed this question in his bachelor's thesis at the Liechtenstein School of Architecture. As a concrete object, he used the knitting building with a retrofitted barn on Kapfstrasse in Eschen, which was built in 1793 and moved in 1861. This offers a unique opportunity for conversion. The task was to survey the existing building, catalog its parts and reuse them in a new design. The design process focused on a form that complements the linear qualities of the chosen site - a path and parking lot that is used by hundreds of people every day and also serves as a jogging route for local residents.

The existing building represents a traditional construction method with specific adaptations that have been made over time. The knitted building has a mixed foundation system: a concrete foundation on the east façade and dry stone walls made of various materials on the other sides. The barn, built in 1821 and directly attached to the knitted building, is designed as a lightweight structure and consists of supports, struts and two plank walls. The room heights vary depending on the area of use: around seven meters in the barn, five and a half meters in the hayloft and two meters in the cowshed. The location chosen for the design is in the immediate vicinity of important public buildings such as the indoor swimming pool, the school and the community center. It is frequented by many people every day, making it a key area for urban planning interventions. By using an already asphalted path, the logistical challenges of transporting and assembling the components are solved efficiently and the environmental impact is minimized.

The central idea for the conversion arose from a study of the linear typology and its potential for innovative spatial design. The building should not only function in itself, but also interact with the surrounding public space. Karaaslan sees the space below the building as a permeable and lively area, while the second floor allows for a clearly defined use. The result is a repeating timber frame structure that stretches 65 meters along the path. On the first floor there is a public fitness trail, which is to be managed by the 'Eschen Aktiv' association. This facility promotes people's health and strengthens the sense of community. There is space for events on the first floor. This part of the building offers a high, covered space for this purpose. Awnings are attached to the supports of the building, which can be extended as required. The two residential units can be reached via a spiral staircase on the west façade and are characterized by floor-to-ceiling, recycled wooden window façades that are divided by wooden chambers. Bedrooms and bathrooms utilize the chambers of the knitted structure and create interesting spaces for the apartments through their staggered arrangement.

Because the length of the original beams was insufficient, special connections had to be developed to meet the requirements of the design. The supporting structure consists of several repeating frames that differ in length and thus adapt to the topography. The frames consist of columns, two cross beams and two rafters. Additional struts are attached under the first crossbeam to ensure light bracing. The frames are connected to the ground via point foundations. These foundations rise about sixty centimeters above the ground and are connected to the supports by means of a special wooden connection. In German, this connection is called 'Schräges Hakenblatt mit Kreuzapfen und Keil' and in Japanese it is known as 'kanawatsugi'. This construction method makes it possible to dismantle the supports again if necessary and takes account of the principle of reversible construction.