Försterhaus Reute

Conversion of an 18th century farmhouse into a cultural centre and museum in Reute, near Freiburg im Breisgau

The municipality of Reute acquired the Försterhaus ensemble in 2011. After its former owner decided to sell the property—of which had been in the family for generations—the municipality intended to include it in a village renewal programme. The name of the Försterhaus can be dated back to the mid-18th century, when the then-village lord left Reute after a fire in his castle. He would later transfer his authority over the village to the local forester, who would temporarily give the Försterhaus the importance of a town hall.

Today, the Försterhaus is located between the village centre and its planned extension. The plot of land marks an offset in the main road which connects the upper and lower parts of the village. The existing ensemble consists of a representative residential house and a barn, both from the 18th century, a tobacco barn from the 1950s, and several other extensions and conversions. With its location and premises, the Försterhaus offers the opportunity to connect different parts of the village, to create a cultural place that is accessible to both the locals and a wider public.

Försterhaus Reute Reute Ohne Titel


The brief included the creation of an infrastructure that would allow it to be used as a public building, as well as the conversion of the buildings into event and exhibition rooms for three collections from the village: the local history museum; the work of the painter Reiner Strub; and an extensive doll and toy collection of the collector Hiltrud Münker. In order to create a breeding ground for the project, of which would enable the villagers to participate from the very beginning, the actual building project was preceded by a comprehensive participatory process. Over several years, the future use and identity of the Försterhaus was discussed with a working group of committed villagers, and tested on-site through collective activities and public events.

2013 09 13 Leute

The cow stable as temporary lecture hall

2013 09 13 Garten 1

One of the events on the way

Throughout its history, the existing building had been adapted to changing needs. In particular, a volume embedded in the L-shaped ground plan of the former residential building in the 1960s had greatly changed its expression. The architectural approach was to accept all layers of this conglomerate on an equal footing, and to add a new generation of architectural elements to them.

The open staircase between the contemporary extension of the house and the barn serves as an entrance to the site and connects the upper levels of the buildings with one another. It offers views across the courtyard and into the village, with the town hall and church in sight. The rooms on the ground floor remain directly accessible from the courtyard, as in the days of their agricultural use.

The former residential building now houses the doll and toy collection. The local museum uses the former carriage shed in the historic barn and the upper floor of the tobacco barn. The large space under the roof of the barn is used for art exhibitions. The rest of the ground floor of the barn houses the general premises, including the service facilities and the community room, of which is rented out when there are no other events.

The different ceiling heights above the stables of the barn have been bridged with a new level, while the ceiling beams below have been preserved as a reminder of the former building type. The load of the new floor rests on the existing walls of the barn, and four new columns have been placed in parallel to the former stable walls in the interior.

On the one hand, the materialisation of the project reflects the pragmatism with which the farm successively adapted to the changing needs in the past; and on the other hand, it demonstrates the respect for its representative role in the village, which confirmed its status as a cultural monument in 2009. The structural elements of the new additions are made of in-situ concrete. The surface of the floors has been given a terrazzo finish. The roof of the barn is the only element of the agricultural buildings that has been thermally insulated. It has been covered with an acoustic roof boarding on the inside. The construction of the tobacco barn has been supplemented with raw spruce beams to meet fire protection requirements. The floor, the internal staircase, the all-round railing in this area, and the kitchen in the common room on the ground floor are made of three-ply wood of white fir from the remaining stock of a timber yard in the Black Forest. The balustrades of the stairs in the exterior are made of welded flat steel, of which references the decorative wrought-iron railings traditionally used in the village. Their champagne colour and the large light spheres in the entrance area emphasise the festive character of the area. 

The showcases in the doll and toy museum consist of a base constructed from industrial steel loading shelves—powder-coated in grey and dusky pink, and clad by a local carpenter. The exhibition walls that hang in the roof construction of the barn consists ofwhite, varnished three-ply panels that can be taken down for other spatial possibilities. In the museum of local history, individual text panels that are placed between the exhibits help to orientate visitors with information and anecdotes.

A large part of the interior elements were built and installed together with the working group of villagers that had already been involved in the concept phase of the project. They also collaborated in the registration, selection, documentation, and relocation of the exhibits. After the opening, they also assumed the operation of the Försterhaus on their own.


Shelves laid out for assembly


Building the exhibition walls

2017 09 24 16.22.25 Web

Selecting the exhibits