UNESCO World Heritage Forum

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UNESCO World Heritage Forum

A meeting between building and nature

Blue sea, white chalk cliffs and green beech forests. The natural beauty of the Baltic Sea island of Rügen inspired artists like the painter Caspar David Friedrich 200 years ago. It was the heyday of Romanticism and the seaside resorts along the island’s east coast. Today, enthusiasm for the beauty of the landscape is accompanied by the desire to protect these wild places. This is how the Waldhalle, a historic restaurant destination in the middle of Jasmund National Park became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is worth a trip now more than ever – not least because clay-earth building traditions were used in the renovation.

A house for nature

In the midst of the dense beech forest that stretches from the nearby Königsstuhl to the land’s end, where chalk cliffs drop into the sea, you will come across what is now the UNESCO World Heritage Forum. As in the Age of Romanticism, the building with its striking half-timbering invites you to take a break and linger. Today, in addition to refreshments, there is also an engaging exhibit with information about the endangered ancient beech forests.

Following the ideals of the Romanticism of the age in which originally built; Appreciation for nature was also the aim of the renovation and conversion work that turned the former restaurant into today’s visitor centre. To do this, the first step was not to build but to demolish.

Around the half-timbered building from 1927 – the previous building was destroyed in a fire – various outbuildings had been erected. The demolition of these brought nature closer to the building.

Bringing nature indoors

In this way, the team from gmw architects achieved an important goal: a strong relationship between nature and the information centre. Inside, they achieved this by using earthen building materials. The rooms of the half-timbered floor of the house were insulated using earthen-clay blocks and a clay-straw mixture.

Combining the heat-storage capacity of clay earth and the insulating property of straw is not only a natural way of insulating but also a way to ensure several aspects of the indoor climate are kept pleasant. Clay earth regulates one of these aspects, humidity – both in the room air and in the construction itself. This keeps humidity within a comfortable range and prevents mould from forming.

A new connection between Nature and the building

Sitting on the new porch, which wraps around the ground floor on two sides, you are in the centre of the clearing. The lawn comes right up to the edge of the decking. The roofing with its slender steel columns was deliberately kept modern. Here you can relax with a snack after a hike and a visit to the exhibition, while the children romp around the playground.

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Clay Highlight:

Natural building – with clay-earth building materials from Claytec

The building where today’s UNESCO World Heritage Forum on the island of Rügen is housed exaggerates a seemingly rural building style with its upper storey in elaborate half-timbering and the flat gable roof. The original builders thereby incorporated Romanticism’s ideal of closeness to nature.

Today, nature is no longer glorified, but rather recognised as the basis for all life and worth protecting. The conversion of existing buildings with natural building materials makes an important contribution.

In the visitors’ centre, CLAYTEC Light Clay Blocks, Clay Undercoat Plaster with Straw, and Clay Topcoat Plaster Coarse with Straw fulfilled two important factors at the same time: Conserving energy due to insulation and reducing the Carbon footprint and environmental impact, since the natural building material earthen clay can be recycled and requires less natural resources for production.


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