Sustainable vacation without TV and minibar

The tour with Melanie Schacker starts at the reception. It is only a few steps from here to the place where the worlds most visibly meet. The bar is behind Schacker, the communications officer at Kulturhof Stangass. On the left are couches under designer lamps that hang from the ceiling like small suns, while the beer garden opens up behind floor-to-ceiling windows. Ahead are the showcases with the flags of the local regulars’ table brotherhood. Schacker stops, and it would be very appropriate now if she expressed her enthusiasm for all this with a sweeping arm movement. So it stays with one sentence: They wanted to create a “meeting place” for locals, vacationers, artists, companies – and not a “generic hotel, like there are thousands in the world”.

The concept of the Kulturhof in Berchtesgadener Land might just as well be described as “just trying something out”. It always fits in with the times: In Bavaria, too, people are now trying to think differently about tourism and to build it differently than before – away from the classic block of hotels, towards more sustainability and preferably something for the eye.

But the results of this new building need not and will not please everyone. Not even in the Bischofswiesen district of Stangass, where the Kulturhof, which opened in 2021, pushes flat into the slope, with the Watzmann always in view. Anyone looking for a pine parlor or a wellness temple that suits the mountain backdrop could be disappointed by the minimalist-looking ensemble: neither alpine style nor geranium balcony, but light wooden facades, lots of glass, tidy design – and ultimately something between hotel and event location, card round and wine tasting, natural pond and art stage. Schacker calls this “bringing people together”, “cross-generational”, “building bridges” between past, present and future.

Series: "Building the future": The Kulturhof Stangass and its 34 rooms are pushed flat into the hillside.

The Kulturhof Stangass and its 34 rooms are pushed flat into the hillside.

(Photo: Kulturhof)

Series: "Building the future": Melanie Schacker in the lounge of the Kulturhof

Melanie Schacker in the Kulturhof lounge

(Photo: Maximilian Gerl)

On the one hand, that sounds like PR vocabulary, but on the other hand, it can be justified. The luxury hotel Geiger used to stand on the same spot, first a meeting point for prominent figures, later empty and dilapidated. The local Greens politician and Synlab founder Bartl Wimmer bought the area and had it redesigned for 25 million euros. Trees were transplanted instead of felled, says Schacker, a biotope was moved, the old Geiger walls were ground down and poured into the foundation because of the story.

Series: "Zukunft Bauen": There is a lot of wood in the rooms - but no television.

There is a lot of wood in the rooms – but no TV.

(Photo: Kulturhof)

In the new building and its 34 rooms, there are no televisions that you could stare at alone. Weddings and cultural events with jazz bands, Austro-poppers or cabaret artists take place in the ballroom. The courses in the in-house yoga studio are open to residents and visitors. Flowers are being tied in the studio next door. And in the restaurant and beer garden, long tables dominate: sitting together instead of alone. This is one of the reasons why the Kulturhof was nominated for the Constructive Alps architecture award, which aims to provide food for thought “for a good life in the Alps”.

Hotel settlements in the Alps are considered by some to be overexploitation of their homeland

There is definitely a dispute about what exactly means good or sustainable. Some villages in the Alps in particular have been transformed into hotel settlements and are seen by some as a guarantee of prosperity, others as overexploitation of their homeland. Some of the locals are even wondering where to stay when more and more day-trippers flood the valley. What is certain, however, is that building in tourism has become more diverse: to appeal to new target groups, to stand out from the competition or for the sake of the environment. In Erlangen, for example, the Creativhotel Luise is what it claims to be the first climate-positive hotel in Germany, with rooms made from 100 percent biodegradable and recyclable materials.

Another new construction attempt is in Oberaudorf in the district of Rosenheim. There, the architect duo Christine Arnhard and Markus Eck landed a holiday home. Your wooden house on the Auerbach blends into the terrain and still stands out, among other things with a floating terrace. The garage is apparently missing, but as part of the ground floor it serves as an alternative party room. The rooms appear as if they were stacked on top of each other in a television documentary and are a bit experimental.

Breaking out of the familiar, says Eck, “it’s always difficult”. Your holiday home is the best example of this: the first building application was rejected. Today there is a second building next to the one nominated for the Artouro Tourism Architecture Prize in 2016, both of which are regularly booked by regular guests. “Our concept was that we did it the way we wanted it,” says Eck. “That’s also what people like,” says Arnhard. Private builders who also want a house like this keep coming to her office. However, this cannot be replicated one-to-one, also because every building has to fit the plot and surroundings. What defines modern tourism architecture? “You have to fit in,” says Arnhard. “It must not be fashionable,” adds Eck. Sustainability must be a matter of course – not only in terms of energy. Arnhard says that for her, a building is also sustainable if it “achieves a lot”, for example if it can be used for a long time and for purposes other than the original one.

Series: "Building the Future": The wooden house on the Auerbach catches the eye with its floating terrace - and the apparently missing garage, which was integrated into the ground floor.

Among other things, the wooden house on the Auerbach catches the eye with its floating terrace – and the apparently missing garage, which was integrated into the ground floor.

(Photo: Florian Holzherr/Arnhard and Eck)

Series: "Building the future": Compact: the living room in view from the bedroom

Compact: the living room in view from the bedroom

(Photo: Florian Holzherr/Arnhard and Eck)

Series: "Building the future": The holiday home by Christine Arnhard and Markus Eck was nominated for the Artouro architecture prize in 2016.

Christine Arnhard and Markus Eck’s holiday home was nominated for the Artouro architecture prize in 2016.

(Photo: Florian Holzherr/Arnhard and Eck)

In practice, however, theory often has its limits. Concepts then collide with building regulations, the demand for sustainability with service demands, the budget framework with the already increasing construction costs. And hoteliers who want stars to boost their business have to meet additional requirements: For example, a four-star rating requires a minibar in the room or 24-hour room service.

The tour ends at the Kulturhof Stangass where it started. There is no sign with stars at the reception. Schacker explains that the decision against certification was made in order to have more freedom for one’s own ideas – and to save energy. Minibars and air conditioning were therefore missing in the rooms. “It’s not up to date anymore.” However, the hotel still has to work its way through guests who like it. After the opening in November, Corona struck across Bavaria, and it has only really been running for a few months. “Of course, there will be fine-tuning here and there,” says Schacker. Otherwise, in Bischofswiesen, they rely on an element that has proven itself everywhere in the hospitality industry: good, old word of mouth.

This is part 8 of our SZ series on sustainable building in Bavaria. You can find these and other episodes on this overview page .

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