Atelier Freienstein

4 row-houses park freienstein . glarus

Atelier Freienstein . photos: © Reto Fuchs, Atelier Freienstein

In the heart of Glarus the “Park Freienstein”. The history of its main building can be traced back to 1560. Numerous factory owners, merchants and councillors lived here, and it also served as a spa house for some time. The “Villa Freienstein” is one of the only stately homes to survive the fire of Glarus in 1861.

After more than 175 years ownership, the site was to be sold in 2018 and most of it built over. What happens to a historic house and a high-maintenance park, which have been in the family for centuries, after the main sponsor can no longer take care of them? Through the intervention of a local architect, a large part of the park was preserved.

After the sale of the complex to private parties failed, the owner family conducted a bidding process. The 3,500m2 plot, aroused the interest of investors, as a complete “city Glarus block edge” with about 14 residential units could be outlined within the southern park area. Should one of the last private park areas now have to make way for residential buildings?

The architect Reto Fuchs developed a project that complemented the composition of the main house and garden studio with four terraced detached houses at the southern end of the park, thus preserving the identity of the park.
The idea of leaving the majority of the park as it was and using it communally in a new way convinced the owner family as well as the cantonal monument preservation office.

Old and new together now form a new unit and span a park area over 40 metres deep between them. The joint use and maintenance of the historic park is intended to ensure its preservation.

While the new buildings were sold to young families, the historic main house and the former wash house remained in the architect’s possession and now form the living and working centre for his family and his newly founded architectural office “Atelier Freienstein”.

The new buildings do not have to hide behind the historic villa. The houses look proudly from behind a belt of trees and form a self-evident counterpart. The park is simultaneously framed and forms the connecting link of the complex, both architecturally and socially. The integration also works through appropriately careful detailing. The greenish shimmering façade made of sawdust-finished wooden boarding blends inconspicuously into the park landscape. White, vertical wooden struts structure the towers and divide the large-format windows into well-proportioned sections. Overhanging canopies and a striking corner window give the building a bold face. The sandblasted concrete base makes the building float elegantly above the ground.

In addition to the communal park, each house offers private roof terraces that extend almost 50m2 across the entire depth of the building. Up here, one lives with the birds in the trees, in the middle of the city. Due to the location of the park to the north of the new buildings, a specific solution had to be found for the private outdoor spaces. This was achieved by deciding to locate the living area on the top floor. As a result, the residents now enjoy a roof terrace that is sunny all day with a unique view of the building’s crowns.
The interior is characterised by the different views. Like their historical neighbours, the new buildings on each floor offer surprising views from their urban counterparts in the south to the park in the north. Overheight rooms stagger the volume and create a sense of grandeur familiar from the historical model.

atelier freienstein
4 row-houses park freienstein . glarus
All plans & photos: Reto Fuchs, Atelier Freienstein