Riegersburg, Austria

Architecture for the third millennium

Riegersburg Castle is an awe inspiring, historically important fortress perched on top of a steep, volcanic rock hill. Sharply rising 200m above the ground below, the location in combination with age- originally documented in the year 1138- make the castle a monumental construction feat. It dominates the hilly landscape and can be seen from just about anywhere in the area.

Two of the best vantage points (tourist attractions in their own right) to marvel at the architecture of yesteryear are actually fine examples of inspiring, modern construction. The Genusshotel Riegersburg and the Zotter Chocolate Factory use the natural environment in a simple but striking way, not only adding astheatic beauty, but also creating buildings with numerous environmental benefits.  A style of construction sure to take future generations into the next millennium.

Zotter Chocolate Factory and Edible Zoo

This is no ordinary chocolate factory. In fact Zotter could not be further from ordinary. Through persistence founder Josef Zotter has certainly created something special in Riegersburg. For a start the chocolate is special- organic and fair trade, and a range of 365 diverse flavours. Secondly the site on which the chocolate is produced is especially inspiring. 

To have a better appreciation for the site you must firstly understand the history behind the production. It all began in 1987 as a very small family business. A small shop in the town of Graz was used to produce and sell a very alternative range of chocolate. With an increase in popularity the need came to expand; three more shops were opened. In 1999 production was moved to the former animal stable on the Zotter family farm. A humble beginning for what is now an inspirational tourist attraction. Sure- for the hoards of tourists that visit -the chocolate is the main draw card. But in the valley below, the 27 hectare Edible Zoo places emphasis on transparency, sustainability and innovation. It is here that the visitor can learn and be inspired.

The Edible Zoo allows visitors to stroll in a naturally beautiful environment through the fields and pastures of organic produce. The visitors learn that everything on the menu in the onsite organic restaurant comes from the farm.

The organic restaurant is powered by solar energy. The 9 large photovoltaic cells track the sun, producing more than 100,000kw per year, enough energy for the restaurant to be self sufficient. 

Buildings throughout the farm including the restaurant and stables are built using traditional Austrian construction methods. Most of the buildings have extensive green roofs with a shallow substrate and are planted with sedum. One of the main farm buildings is built into the side of the hill. The substrate depth on that roof is noticeable thicker allowing for varied planting. The substrate wraps down the vertical wall adjacent to the restaurant; forming a vertical herb garden. The Zotter website quotes this vertical wall as "architecture for the third millennium".

For more information on the sustainable, organic and inspirational Zotter Chocolate Factory and Edible Zoo visit http://www.zotter.at/en/homepage.html


GenussHotel Riegersburg

Offering superb views of the Riegersburg Castle the Genusshotel Riegersburg is difficult to spot when passing on the road nearby. That it does not stand out is what makes this building architecturally amazing!

Wedged between a vineyard and a row of well established trees the hotel building is cut, terraced style into the natural lay of the land. Essentially each level is like a giant tread in staircase, overlapping one another going up the hill. The low profile, flat green roofs of each level simply marry the building and the grassed hill together. Looking toward the castle from the hotel balconies you look across the roof of the level below. As it is a green roof you barely even realise there is a room underneath.

Construction like this will become vital as our world continues to experience global warming, and other extreme weather events. Digging structures into the earth and covering roofs with vegetation will increase thermal insulation. A simple solution leading to a decrease in heating and cooling requirements.