12 x12

Milled from a solid block of aluminium
Bespoke light fitting for Villa S

Villa W
Frankfurt am Main
(Under Construction)

This white monolithic house delineates a striking demarcation between the public and private realms. From the street, its north facing facade looks and feels impenetrable: the entranceway is recessed; the first floor, windowless; and its top floor fenestration, well set back. By contrast, the south elevation is completely glazed.

Surrounding properties are a mixture of two and three storey pitch roof housing. All have been carefully referenced in determining the project’s massing. And, as a way of a vertical counterpoint to the villa’s robust horizontality, the traditional chimney is elegantly defined as a slender block-like form.

The scheme utilises a restrained palette of materials: for the externals walls, one course of high insulation clay blocks; for the internal configuration, cast in-situ concrete. Externally, the house is finished in a mineral based render, which preserves the breathability of the walls. Furthermore, as there is no insulation layer used in the build, the clay blocks are specified at 450mm thick in order to achieve the desired U-values.

Villa W provides 640 sq metres of living space over four levels. The floor-to-ceiling heights are generous, measuring 2.4m, 2.8m, 2.6m and 2.4m from the lower ground level to the second floor respectively. The main social spaces, a living and dining area on the ground floor and a gallery/study on the first floor, are located to the rear, orientated towards the garden via the fully glazed south facing elevation. Here the building's substantial structural framework allows for the insertion of a dramatic double height space (6m x 6m x 3.4m), so enabling these interiors to function as one large, interconnected two-tier cuboid.

The glazing to the south elevation comprises a series of triple pane units: three for both the ground floor and first floor (3.5m x 2.8m, 3m x 2.8m and 3.5m x 2.8m), and two for the top level (3.5m x 2.4m and 3.8m x 2.4m). In addition, a substantial glazed section (6m x 2.8m) within the west elevation enhances the quality of light to the kitchen and dining area, as well as playing an integral part, along with the south façade, in bringing the outdoors in and vice versa. A continuous flooring surface, comprising coquina stone slabs, running throughout the living room and the adjoining L-shaped terrace, provides the other major component in delivering this inside-outside connection.

Building on this dynamic, the villa's top floor, pavilion-like configuration enables the house 'to step outside' its immediate suburban neighbourhood. Full height glazing on three sides offers scenic views of the surrounding countryside, the Taunus mountain range being visible to the north. Diffused light from a skylight, situated above the stairwell, creates a sense of expectation as one ascends. On fine days the ambience is heighted by diagonal rays of light via the south-west glazing.

This delicate use of light is equally on show at the front of the house. Here, a rectangular slot is detailed in the overhang above the recessed entranceway and a full-height sandblasted glass panel integrated within the entrance design. Together, these gently illuminate the hallway, the light becoming brighter as one moves through the building and into the project's tour de force; its two-tier, open-plan living area - a composition that both celebrates and disseminates the villa’s spatial tectonic narrative.

Villa W,  Frankfurt am Main
High insulation clay blocks, cast in-situ concrete, glass and sandstone
Starts on site: November 2014
Modelmaker: Innovation Technologies GmbH,  Frankfurt am Main

Villa S

Villa S is dramatically located on a hillside above the historic town of Schriesheim, in Baden-Württemberg, in southwest Germany. From its elevated site, the building offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside: to the south, the Black Forest; to the west, the Palatinate and the Rhine Valley; to the east, the Odenwald mountain range; and in the foreground, on a neighbouring hillside, the ruins of Strahlenburg Castle, originally built in 1295. Within this setting, the project presents itself as an elemental two-tier structure in white cast in-situ concrete.

The white concrete has been well honed, the culmination of years of perfecting its use, perfecting the right mix, the quality of shuttering and the waxes applied, to ensure a smooth matt finish. Here it is used within a massing composition that generates a strong sense of place, rooting the villa in its culture and topography.

The lower level is articulated as a heavy concrete cuboid, embedded in the landscape. The walls are Romanesque in stature, which is the result of the double concrete wall system, the solidity and density of which is strikingly disseminated at the front of the house, courtesy of the deeply set glazing. Structurally, the internal wall is loadbearing, allowing the outer wall to function as formidable facing. With this block, the bedrooms and bathrooms are safely cocooned. Above, the pavilion like configuration engages with the landscape and the elements.

The ground floor plan is made up of three interconnected but well-defined areas. The first of these, on the north side, incorporates the garage and the entranceway, as well as an external staircase leading down to the lower ground level and the garden. The central area houses the living space and the kitchen, and the building’s stairwell which provides access to both the garage and a toilet and washroom facility. The villa’s terrace, on the south side, accessed via three elegant sliding glass panels, completes the plan. Brazilian slate tiling runs continuously throughout the interior and exterior, creating a stunning inside-outside space, measuring 135sqm.

The downstairs layout is larger, measuring 175sqm. This comprises the two south-facing bedrooms, with floor to ceiling glazing, both having en-suite bathrooms; a central area, which is capable of accommodating two additional well-sized rooms; and towards the rear, a utility and washroom, a general storage space, and a dedicated room for the building’s electrics and heating system.The ceiling heights measure 2.6m for the lower level and 2.85m for the ground floor.

From a volumetric standpoint, the spaces feel generous and well proportioned; the main living area, in particular, having a real sense of grandeur, suffused as it is with natural sunlight and commanding as it does spectacular views. The roof's bold horizontal form makes the design complete. This cantilevers 2.6m on the south side; and manifests itself as a seemingly gravity defying open canopy on the north side, the large rectangular aperture (4.3m x 2.7m x 0.6m) delivering a constantly changing interplay of light and shadow.

Throughout the scheme, the Meranti doors and window frames provide a strong aesthetic counterpoint to the white concrete while elegantly complementing the slate flooring, and the opaque matt glass panels that form part of the fenestration.

This holistic approach to detailing is also evident in the building's bespoke light fitting which delivers both internal and external coverage; works within the structural parameters of the concrete ceilings; and complements the architecture's exacting, pared-back aesthetic. Existing fittings were unable to meet these requirements, hence the development of the villa’s very own luminaire.

The outer casing, which measures 12cm x 12cm x 8cm, is milled from a solid block of aluminium. Internally, the fitting comprises 49 1W LEDs mounted on a platina plate, combined with a highly polished stainless steel reflector and a specially satinized plexi-glass cover. The finished product is a low energy, high performance lamp that delivers an even spread of emitted light. Furthermore, it sits perfectly flush to the ceiling, so respecting the ascetic clarity of the cast in-situ concrete.

The villa's asymmetric plan orchestrates the lighting layout, hence the spacing of the three lamps along the south-facing cantilever, the one offset from the middle aligning with the building’s long axis. Save for this subtle lighting detail, the south façade's symmetry robustly counterbalances the asymmetrical arrangement that organises the north elevation.

This dialogue between the north and south facades is in itself counterbalanced by the dynamic between the heavy mass of the lower level and the lighter structure above - the former generating a connection with the earth, the latter a connection with the sky. These axial relationships animate the building, enriching its narrative. This is architecture exploring the communicative potential of tectonics and materiality. The result is a dwelling that looks and feels timeless, completely at home in its surroundings.

Villa S, Schriesheim, 2014
White cast in-situ concrete, slate, wood and bespoke lighting

Villa S, White cast in-situ concrete, near Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Completion date: August 2014 

Prospettive Zen
Marie Claire Maison Italia
Una geometria all’insegna della sottrazione, fatta di linee rigorose, 
per il padiglione format Ian Shaw Architekten a Siegen, in Germania

Villa S, near Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
White cast in-situ concrete, slate, steel & glass
Completion date: August 2014