Marte.Marte Architects to convert Hitler's birthplace into police station with "minimalist architectural language"
Austrian studio Marte.Marte Architects has revealed its design to convert the building where Adolf Hitler was born in Braunau am Inn into a police headquarters.
The studio is redesigning the building, which was purchased by the Austrian state in 2017, following an open competition to turn the former inn into offices for the police.
Marte.Marte Architects will dramatically alter the appearance of the 17th-century building where Nazi leader Hitler was born by adding an additional story with a double-gable roof, which was designed to be a minimal version of the building's original form.
"The design is based on a perpetuation of the original historic substance of the building from the 16th and 17th century expressed in a minimalist architectural language," explained Marte.Marte Architects co-founder Stefan Marte.
"A new abstract take on the traditional cross-passage house with a well-preserved historic structure as a basis," he told Dezeen.
Two townhouses at Salzburger Vorstadt 15 were combined in the mid-18th century to create a restaurant with apartments above. Hitler was born in one of these in 1889 and lived there for a few weeks before his family moved to another location in the town.
Hitler went on to the form the Nazi party in Germany, becoming chancellor and then dictator in 1933. He led the country to defeat in the second world war and instigated the murder of around six million Jews during the Holocaust.
The building's current form is largely a result of alterations made during the Nazi rule of Austria, which lasted from 1938 to 1945, to turn the inn into a memorial to Hitler.
"Purchased by Reichsleiter Martin Bormann for the Nazi Party in 1938, the house was intended to be a 'dignified memorial site'," explained Marte.
"This led to several years of planning and renovation, during which the building at Vorstadt 15 was transformed into the 'Führer's birth house' by Nazi propaganda," he continued. "The current look of the building at Salzburger Vorstadt 15 is largely the result of this construction campaign."
The Austrian government made the decision not to demolish the house and decided to turn the building into a police station as a symbolic gesture.
"Today we are opening a new chapter in dealing with our historical responsibility," announced Austria's minister of the interior Karl Nehammer at the unveiling of Marte.Marte Architects' design for the building.
"More than 140 years after the birth of Adolf Hitler, his birthplace in Braunau becomes an antithesis of everything he stood for: a place where democracy and human rights are defended, a place that offers security from persecution and a look behind enables peace and freedom in the front," he continued.
"The police are a guarantee of democracy, which is why the Hitler birth house will house the district police command and police inspection Braunau am Inn after its redesign."
"The clock will be turned back to 1750"
Marte.Marte Architects will build on the existing structure to create the police headquarters.
"The invaluable original substance of the historic building will not be demolished or elevated to another monument; the history and thus the public perception of the building will be rewritten by its future use," explained Marte.
"The changes made by the Nazis will not only be reversed, but the clock will be turned back to 1750, long before Adolf Hitler was born. The disruptive changes of the last few centuries will be stripped away layer by layer."
"The two typologically meaningful cross-passage houses from the 17th century will reemerge from the existing historic building and once again enrich the impressive facades of the Salzburger Vorstadt in the future," he continued.
New look is "simple and unadorned"
Marte.Marte Architects hopes the end result will be a contemporary building that mirrors the form of the previous buildings.
"The new look of Salzburger Vorstadt 15 is simple and unadorned in the tradition of the old townhouses," said Marte.
"Almost sculptural in appearance, as if carved out of a white stone, the entire complex forms one homogenous whole from the historic front building to the new rear building and the annex."
Behind the main building, in an area where a distillery was formerly located, a modern extension will be built that takes its style directly from the existing building.
"The long narrow plot practically screams out for a contemporary interpretation of the cross-passage house characteristic of Braunau," explained Marte.
"The headquarters of the Upper Austrian regional police directorate will be housed in future in both the historic front building as well as the new rear building."
"The typology of the historic windows will be carried over in the contemporary building," he continued. "Somewhat larger in terms of dimensions, they take on the proportions of the historic rectangular windows and are also arranged horizontally, vertically, and diagonally."
Property developed by government to prevent "Nazi activities"
Following the second world war, the property at Salzburger Vorstadt 15 was returned to its pre-war owners and has since been used as a bank, a school and a daycare centre, but has been empty since the Lebenshilfe charity vacated the building in 2011.
It was purchased by the state in 2017, however, the former owner fought the government's purchase in the Austrian Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights, as well as contesting the amount of compensation in the country's civil courts.
The architectural competition to design the police headquarters was launched after the resolution of court proceedings in 2019.
"After the final court decision in the compensation proceedings, the legally required subsequent use of the Hitler birth house can be initiated to prevent any form of re-activity and Nazi activities," said interior minister Wolfgang Peschorn at the time.
Marte is now welcoming the challenge of designing a building appropriate for the historic and controversial site.
"We have always been fascinated by the challenge of working on listed buildings," Marte said. "One of the most difficult problems an architect can face is having to preserve the invaluable historic substance and add new elements using contemporary means."
"In the case of this more than 300-year-old building, there is also the challenge of dealing with the sad notoriety of the Salzburger Vorstadt as Hitler's birth house."