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Niederwalddenkmal, Germany

Visitor center, Information center, Cafe, Shop, Rüdesheim am Rhein DE, Project Team: René van Zuuk, Peter Hagelaar, Anja Rademaker, Joe Scragg, Client: Land Hessen DE, International competition 2011- honorable mention, Area: 625 m², Volume: 3.000 m³, Building cost: €1.000.000

The Middle Rhine valley is characterized by its historical towns, castles, vineyards and of course the Rhine, which meanders through the undulating landscape. Serving as an entrance to the Rhine valley, the Osteinische Park hosts over 1.8 million visitors arriving by bus, car, or cable car.

The visitors are greeted with views over the vast countryside landscape around the Rhine. There is an unflattering combination of historic buildings and tourist facilities. Unfortunately, the historic buildings, especially the Niederwalddenkmal, are visually dominated by the cafe and the other various visitor amenities. The cafe scars the landscape with its angular form and modern materials and does not communicate with Niederwalddenkmal or the nearby Monopteros building. The fragmented facilities create a complex and scattered environment. This can be ameliorated by housing all the facilities in one building.

The existing stone walls blend seamlessly with the environment and are the starting point of the design process. The particular type of stone is used extensively in the surrounding area, such as in the nearby Knight's Hall, the base of a local historic monument, as well as to border the roads. By using it as the main material, the concept has a wider urban context. The existing buildings demonstrate that using a varied palette of materials is not in accordance with the landscape.

The aim of the project is to quietly interweave the new visitor centre with the landscape, without making a clear architectural statement, and avoiding confrontation with the Monopteros. A cubist shape is therefore impractical, and the design consists of only one floor, largely hidden below the ground.

Horizontal windows and curved walls guide visitors to the entrance, which is placed in the middle of the arched shape. To the left, the visitor can enter the information point and gift shop, and to the right, is the space of the cafeteria. At the rear of the building, the restrooms provide separation between the gift shop and the cafeteria. The existing café is replaced by a terrace that offers spectacular views over the Rhine valley.

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