das quartier – Innovation at the foot of the Zugspitze

by Ulrich Stefan Knoll, November 2018

As visually striking as it is unexpected, the silhouette of quartier’s roofline on the southern perimeter of Garmisch-Partenkirchen will catch your eye from the moment you arrive. Inside – which we will get to shortly – a cosmos of contemporary living awaits you. And while quartier appears to suit its environment so naturally today, its presence somehow self-evident, it has its own unique back story – a story worth unpacking before we open its doors.

© Bert Heinzlmeier
Façade detail. © Bert Heinzlmeier

Opened in late 2016, this apartment hotel was not only the first new hotel to be built in Garmisch in 35 years. (The event caused quite a stir, not least due to its modern design language.) It was also part of Garmish’s broader urban context from the very beginning. Today, it represents the architectural crowning achievement of a long-in-the-making and award-winning revitalisation of the commercial community at the foot of Germany’s highest peak.

Quartier’s initiators were Wolfgang Münst, a lawyer specialising in public and private building law, and Theo Peter, an experienced cooperative building project developer. Münst and Peter had worked on many joint building projects in southern Germany over the years. And it was in this capacity that Theo Peter was contacted by a citizens’ initiative in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, who opposed the originally planned construction of a 5-star international hotel on the site of the town’s former hospital. A set of fortunate circumstances ensured that their joint building venture received a land option in a public tender that allowed them to acquire an area almost one hectare in size, as well as four historic buildings dating to the turn of the century. In cooperation with Beer Bembé Dellinger Architects, they were then able to realise an alternative redevelopment of the space.

Cooperative building project in the context of "Altes Garmisch neu gelebt" – the view from the hotel arcade. © Bert Heinzlmeier

Under the project title “Altes Garmisch neu erlebt” (“Old Garmisch, experienced anew”), the residential building project saw the creation of 27 units followed by the quartier hotel, which rounded off the project beautifully. Thanks to its innovative and location-sensitive approach, the project was recently awarded the Metropolitan Region of Munich’s 1st Prize for Baukultur (“building culture”). What’s more, the jury explicitly acknowledged the courage required in pursuing the project.

The old ushers in the new

The centrepiece of today’s hotel is the former Villa Friedheim, which the academic and master gardener Karl Bischoff had built at the beginning of the last century – along with his own garden centre. His wreath creations made with alpine rose and mountain pine found their way from here into the wider world, including into the Tsar’s household and the English royal court.

When the building application was submitted in 2014, the villa was scheduled to be demolished without further conditions. Instead, the decision was made to carry out an extremely costly renovation: even at this early stage, a sensitive approach and great attention to detail was given priority over pure economy. And it paid off. Today, the villa functions as an architectural counterpoint to the new building. Not only do these two wings complement each other wonderfully, but together they also create a successful combination of the homely and the modern in one and the same place.

Villa Friedheim: Historical photo, around 1936 (Private archive: Theo Peter)
© Bert Heinzlmeier
© Bert Heinzlmeier

The first thing that awaits you here today is the modestly furnished dining room of the restaurant on the villa’s ground floor. Locals like to come here too, which almost certainly has something to do with the quality of the reduced but superbly crafted menu. On the upper floor, accessible via the historic staircase with its striking original blue tiles, there is a library and a seminar room with a sunny balcony. On the top floor of the villa, you will find a separate holiday apartment and a roof terrace with panoramic views of the mountain scenery.

Gastronomy. © Bert Heinzlmeier
Gastronomy. © Bert Heinzlmeier
Library. © Bert Heinzlmeier
Library. © Bert Heinzlmeier
Seminar room. © Bert Heinzlmeier
Loggia. © Bert Heinzlmeier

Arrive, settle in, unwind

The old and new wings, which stand in an L-shaped relation to each other, are connected at the corner by the reception area. Entering here you will have already seen the historic villa from the outside, and will then be greeted by a two-storey hall dominated by fair-faced concrete. What immediately stands out – apart from the friendliness of the staff – is the magnificent, filigree ceiling light. Made by Billa Reitzner of Munich, the light was specially designed for quartier and consists of countless delicate porcelain elements. It is appropriately huge, proportionate to size of the room, but in reality it is as light as a feather.

Reception. © Bert Heinzlmeier
Cross section. © Beer Bembé Dellinger Architekten

The restaurant is on the right hand side of the entrance hall. If you would like to settle into your own accommodation for a while, head straight on – on the same floor or the one above – and you will reach one of the 18 lodges. These can be accessed via a connecting concrete arcade at the rear in front of the timber-framed apartment building, which will be planted with greenery in the near future.

Hotel arcade. © Bert Heinzlmeier

Here, you will find a set of timber lodges, some with two floors. These lodges extend over the entire depth of the building and thus offer wonderful views – both of the Wetterstein mountains and the Olympic ski jump to the south, and of the historic town centre, the church of St. Martin, and the Kramerspitz to the North.

Simple and beautiful. Simply beautiful.

The choice of materials and furnishings has been kept to a deliberate minimum. In accordance with quartier’s motto “Ankommen. Abschalten. Bewegen”, which roughly translates as “Arrive. Switch off. Move.” the objective here is first and foremost to unwind. Each room’s shell and interior design is dominated by untreated solid wood, the furnishings are reduced to the essentials, all high quality and with as few distractions as possible. Natural materials such as loden and linoleum complete the design. In the living area, cosy seating niches by the panoramic windows invite you to linger and daydream. The lodges on the upper floor also feature a large gallery with a cosy hammock and writing desk.

© Bert Heinzlmeier
© Bert Heinzlmeier
© Bert Heinzlmeier
© Bert Heinzlmeier

At quartier, you can rest, “switch off” and unwind. One particular switch may help in this endeavour – the one that turns off the Wi-Fi, allowing you to relax in a completely “analogue” world of your own. For sports enthusiasts, there is a further special feature: a naturally ventilated cabinet specially designed for airing winter and sports clothing. Simple and ingenious. And in the kitchenette area, a cosy seating area awaits you too.

Seating area and pantry kitchen. © Bert Heinzlmeier
Naturally ventilated cupboard. © Bert Heinzlmeier

Everything is pleasantly modern and of a high quality; far from barren like in a monk’s cell, which the lodges may remind you of in a positive way, but simply reduced to what is necessary. When you come to rest here, you have already made the first step in your own self-care. Take your time, contemplate the landscape, your thoughts and moods, or perhaps enjoy a good book. Lying in the “upper deck” hammock, you can enjoy views of St. Martin’s and the mountain panorama, observe the stars at night, or perhaps the interplay of the clouds … your thoughts will quickly turn to things beyond the usual hectic of everyday life.

Griaß’ di Gott, scheene Gegend! (Bavarian for “Hello, beautiful landscape!”)

And once you have “arrived” and “switched off” the “moving” will naturally follow; you will inevitably find yourself setting off into the Alpine landscape of the surrounding Werdenfelser Land. Because, as beautiful as the views may be, at some point the desire to enter these views yourself will overwhelm you. A wellness or fitness area was deliberately omitted from quartier. Movement cannot artificially recreated behind glass windows – at least not in this spectacular environment. The adventure begins in the “playground” right outside the front door and offers countless possibilities.

Just like the authors of the book “Time is Honey”, the people behind quartier firmly believe that time can only be lived, not managed. And certainly not saved. The Forum in the basement of the new wing therefore offers further options for getting “active”. For seminars, conferences, presentations or project launches, the building has two professionally equipped event and conference rooms for up to 100 people over 200 square metres – a space which has been made use of by both regionally established winter sports companies and DAX-listed corporations. Here you can not only hold great professional meet-ups but also enjoy yourself and recharge your batteries with creative energy. The size of the hotel also allows companies to book the entire building for conferences or presentations.

Meetings in the Forum. © Bert Heinzlmeier

Anyone who comes to quartier, whether to meet, to get active, to explore, or simply unwind, will find carefully thought-out and reduced architecture. And a unique design language deliberately conceived to be unobtrusive. The architecture here has won awards thanks to its superior quality. The design language works so well because it does not impose itself; it is refined and, above all, always focuses on the guest and the quality of his or her stay. quartier has long since become a link between old and new Garmisch. Both spatially, because it closes the transition to the town centre, and also in terms of time. Many long-established residents have consciously expressed their appreciation for the fact that the historic villa has preserved a piece of the “old” Garmisch. And now – together with the new building – it has set off for the future.

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