Moravia, Czech Republic
A walk through the ruins of Helfštýn Castle that fuses past and present.
Standing high above the Moravian Gate valley is Helfštýn Castle, the second largest in the Czech Republic, after Prague Castle. Helfštýn was established in the 14th century. In 2014, the ruins of the Renaissance palace were in such a state of decay that they were closed down. Olomouc Region, which owns the monument, initially planned for its reconstruction and the design of a new roof. The National Heritage Institute opposed this, insisting instead on preserving the site as a ruin, giving the green light to only a part of the roof and putting a limit to its height: no higher than the perimetral walls of the complex. The Czech office Atelier-R proposed an intervention grounded on a dialogue between the historical building and contemporary architecture, and aspiring to aesthetic lure without forgoing functionality.
To immerse visitors in an experience approaching the castle’s original essence, a path is provided through the gaps in the ruins, connecting the bottom to the upper levels. Three different materials are used, each one in a different space: glass on steel beams on the roof, placed between the ruined walls of five of the rooms so that one can see the sky; CorTen steel for the footbridges that make up the promenade; and polished concrete to shape a ground-level web of platforms and paths. The project takes pains to preserve the true character of Helfštýn. The castle now has a scenic route enabling visitors to learn the history of the place and enjoy the views.