New friends are silver, but old friends are gold—or so goes the traditional saying. If that's true, then the Leeb Fruit Orchard, located in St. Andrä am Zicksee, Austria, and designed by Vienna-based Architects Collective, must be both silver and gold, as it blends new and old by providing the best of modern innovation.
The petite, 1,500-sq.-ft. apple and fruit production facility and shop is quaintly simplistic, but that’s exactly how Vera and Albert Leeb envisioned it when they began collaborations with Architects Collective. "The client grows apples [in the local orchard] and then sells them at their production facility, so the initial idea was to create a contemporary interpretation of wooden market stands, [which are found throughout the Austrian region],” describes Kurt Sattler, partner at Architects Collective and lead architect on the project.
But while the Leeb’s knew they wanted to modernize a traditional, rural concept, Sattler says, their requirements were mostly functional. “They had no preconceived idea of what the building might look like.” The store needed to provide adequate space for harvesting, storage, and production, as well as include all the latest sustainable innovations, all on a relatively low budget. (The final project cost was only $560,000).
The end result was a retail model that utilized natural materials and a complex, store-front system to create a continuous interior-to-exterior spatial flow to highlight the agricultural product being sold. “Initially, we wanted to create an exciting, environmentally friendly project,” recalls Sattler. “We learned a lot about expanding some ideas and how to integrate a client’s vision comprehensively into the architecture.”
Completed in August 2009, the Leeb Fruit Orchard stands as a beacon against an open Austrian landscape. The building consists predominantly of wood—in both the structure and interior elements—and features a varnished, brown exterior to underscore the facility’s archaic, box shape. To adhere to the Leeb’s tight—and challenging--budget, the Architects Collective design team constructed the wooden frame from prefabricated wood, while the outer, brown-and-green facade is made of inexpensive OSB panels.
In essence, the building functions as both a warehouse and a store, enabling the Leeb’s to cut out the need for distributors or supermarkets. Two, 16-ft. by 19-ft., sliding doors in the front open to transform the structure into a storefront, revealing a large, green focal wall that creates a subtle contrast. “When [the store] is closed, it is an abstract, sculptural volume. When it is open, it is inviting and intriguing,” describes Sattler.
Also intriguing is how Architects Collective designed the Leeb Fruit Orchard to function as an eco-friendly "passive house.” It requires no additional heating or cooling systems, as various smart green features ensure high energy efficiency.
Several large, folding aluminum frames shade the store’s panoramic window, which faces the main street of the town, to keep the building from overheating in the sun. The parking lot and other areas are paved with used, concrete, vineyard posts that allow precipitation to percolate; while two evaporation basins channel the rainwater from the roof.
To keep costs down, the designers opted for innovative, economical sustainability features: They used old bicycle inner tubes as re-purposed ceiling lights; previously used, laminated wood panels as shelves and cupboards; and reused old printer plates and advertising banners as decor. "We also used super-thick insulation, triple glass windows, and smart positioning of the building and its openings,” comments Sattler. These recycled elements add to the design’s authenticity, while preserving a thoroughly modern environmental consciousness, he says.
The Leeb Fruit Orchard has since become an overwhelming success, as well as a community landmark. Sattler says, "The client loves the building and it has been a big success financially and socially. It has become the meeting place of the village."