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Exploring the beautiful Altstadt (old town center) of nearby Ratingen, a small brown sign pointed us towards something called “Haus zum Haus” or roughly translated, “House to House.” This particular castle dates back to the 13th Century, when a fortified house was built on the site of former ruins dating back as far as the 9th Century. Over the following 400 years the construction grew to include an outer courtyard, inner keep, large stable complex and a variety of outbuildings. Unfortunately, in the 1970’s the buildings were in a state of near ruin the owner had to turn the site over to the City of Ratingen, who then leased it to an architect who oversaw the reconstruction.

For an architect like myself, this place is a gold mine of ideas from the wonderful mixture of old stonework to the newer half-timbered buildings with modern glass and detailing. Actually, my favorite part of the structure were the long, angled timber cuts diagonally across the façade, so a window and door were simply custom built to fit the angled openings.

We spent the next couple of hours wandering the gardens and sketching while the autumn rain held off just long enough for us to actually put pen to paper. Despite our run-in with a rather proud peacock, nothing could shake my envy of the architectural firm housed in the upper level of one of the older buildings. If only we had old castles back home in need of restoration!

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