Both buildings are on the edge of the medieval centre of St Gallen. In the immediate vicinity stands the famous and UNESCO-listed Abbey of St Gall with its wonderful library. For this reason the architects were faced with a difficult task: to insert the new building into the abbey’s buffer zone, an area in which the buildings are arranged in a complex structure.
Hilmer & Sattler und Albrecht decided to harmonize their congress centre with its surroundings in such a way that the building’s newness is evident only ‘at second sight’. Moreover, a decisive role here is played by the painstakingness of their approach. This care is to be seen not just in the design of diverse details that seem to invite the viewer to look more closely at them — details both on the outside of and inside the building — but also in the thought that has gone into harmonizing the building with its surroundings, and in the controlled way in which the building ‘responds’ to its environment.
Account has been taken not just of the neighbouring buildings, which are mainly apartment blocks and office buildings dating to the turn of the 19th century, but also of buildings in the neighbouring medieval district with their round corner towers. Moreover, the new building stands on the site of the Green Tower, a medieval fortification and part of the city’s defences which was still extant in the 19th century. For this reason the main façade is on one side topped by a rounded tower-like volume containing the main staircase. This volume is balanced by the main entrance, situated at the opposite corner, which is also rounded. A second entrance is located at the foot of the staircase. This asymmetry underlines the unevenness of the landscape and connects the building with the city’s medieval tissue.
View from Einstein Hotel at the main entrance of Einstein Congress © Fernando Guerra
Main conference hall foyer on the first floor © Luke Hayes
Main conference hall © Luke Hayes
Main image: © Luke Hayes