Handover at Ruhestein: ZÜBLIN Timber completes wood and steel construction for new National Park Centre

Photo: Atelier Dirk Altenkirch
Photo: Atelier Dirk Altenkirch
Photo: ZÜBLIN Timber

The new visitor and information centre at the Black Forest National Park is an architectural eyecatcher made of wood and steel. The building ensemble consists of eight separate flat structures stacked on top each other and connected by an elongated, open skywalk to the inclined viewing tower rising boldly above the tops of the fir trees. ZÜBLIN Timber successfully completed the structural timber and steel construction, transforming the ambitious sculptural design of the architects sturm und wartzeck into an impressive reality. In the presence of Baden-Württemberg’s Minister-President Winfried Kretschmann, the keys for the new building were ceremonially handed over to the National Park today, Friday.

The architectural design for the National Park Centre at Ruhestein Pass at 915 m above sea level was inspired by the image of an unspoilt forest habitat. The one- and two-storey building blocks, each up to 65 metres in length, lie stacked on top of each other like a pile of fallen trees. Visual highlights are the 35 m viewing tower, inclined at an angle of 15 degrees, and the broad wooden skywalk connecting it to the National Park Centre. In keeping with the concept, wood – in particular local silver fir – was used as the visually dominant building material.

Timber construction with production and installation to the highest precision
ZÜBLIN Timber GmbH, by far the largest contractor involved, contributed the entire range of its timber construction expertise to the complex project, from factory planning to production and installation. “In ZÜBLIN Timber, the state of Baden-Württemberg found a professional and capable contract partner for the realisation of the timber-steel hybrid construction. The team solved a variety of complex challenges with enormous commitment and professional competence. The results speak for themselves”, said Birgit Rath, project manager at Vermögen und Bau Baden-Württemberg. “We are proud that we were able to make such a significant contribution to completing this ambitious construction project. The challenging dimensions, the millimetre precision in production, and the installation of the massive structural elements between trees on open forest slopes presented us with enormous challenges, which we were able to master successfully,” concludes Simon Pfeffer, senior site manager at ZÜBLIN Timber. His team was responsible for all steel construction, timber construction and structural works, the trusses made of beech, veneer laminated timber and glulam with a long span of more than 60 m for the skywalk, all steel connections as well as the construction of the viewing tower using steel trusses and cross-laminated timber wall panels. Assembly of the new National Park Centre took a total of 470 days, with ZÜBLIN Timber installing 1,150 m³ of cross-laminated timber, 206 m³ of glulam and 312 t of steel, among other things, including some four million anchor nails.

Longer test phase for limited visitor groups
The new National Park Centre, which covers around 3,200 m² of floor space, not only accommodates the National Park administration but also serves as a central contact point for visitors, providing information on hiking opportunities and the National Park offerings. These include a large interactive permanent exhibition, various temporary exhibitions and lecture events, as well as seminar rooms, a cinema and a bistro. The end of the open skywalk and the top of the viewing tower offer bird’s-eye views over the 120-year-old fir and spruce forest.
Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the new National Park Centre will not yet be generally accessible but will be gradually opened to the public in several steps. The architectural tours planned for the first few weeks will be followed by a test phase for the building operations and exhibitions during which school classes, associations and local residents will be invited to visit. The National Park Centre should open to the general public on 1 March 2021 – initially with certain health and safety restrictions: the daily number of guests will be limited to 400, and for the time being tickets will only be available online. The aim is to start unrestricted operation in the summer of 2021.