Villa S

Villa S is a cast in-situ concrete house, dramatically sited on a hillside above Schriesheim, in Baden-Württemberg, in southwest Germany. From its elevated position, 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.

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 and dwelling, rooting the villa in its culture and topography.

The base section is articulated as a heavy concrete cuboid, embedded in the landscape - an extension of the earth, almost. The walls are Romanesque in stature, which is strikingly disseminated by the deeply set glazing at the front of the house. The solidity of the design is the result of the double concrete wall system. Structurally, the internal wall is load-bearing, enabling the outer wall to function as formidable facing.

In the lower block, bedrooms and bathrooms are safely cocooned. Above, the pavilion like configuration engages with the landscape and the elements. The sliding glass doors and the Brazilian slate tiling used inside and out deliver a seamless connectivity between the living room and terrace, the combined area measuring 135sqm.

The downstairs space is larger, measuring 175sqm. This comprises two south-facing bedrooms, with floor to ceiling glazing, both having en-suites bathrooms; a central area, which is flexible in its usage, two additional bedrooms being easily accommodated within the grid like structure; and towards the rear, a utility and washroom, a general storage space and a dedicated room for the building’s electrics and heating system.

From a volumetric standpoint, the ceiling heights are generous: 2.6m for the lower ground floor and 2.85m upstairs. This latter dimension enables the architecture to make a bold tectonic statement at either end of the villa: on the south side, a 2.6m cantilever extends beyond the living space; and on the north side, a seemingly gravity defying rectangular aperture, measuring 6.25m x 5m x 0.65m, emphatically defines the main entranceway. Together these structural features present the roof as an assured, well-defined plane; so harmonizing with the lower block’s strong horizontal form.

Throughout the scheme the bespoke Meranti doors and window frames perfectly complement not only the white concrete, but also the slate flooring and the opaque glass panels used in the building's fenestration. This holistic approach to detailing is additionally evident in the lamp design.

The project required a light unit to deliver both internal and external coverage; work within the structural parameters of the cast in-situ concrete ceilings; and be able to complement the project’s exacting, pared-back aesthetic. Existing fittings were researched but there was nothing appropriate. The solution is the villa’s very own luminaire, measuring 12cm x12cm x8cm.

The outer casing 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, the unit sits perfectly flush when recessed; there is no external mounting or trim, which preserves 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 is symmetrical which robustly counterbalances the asymmetrical arrangement that organises the north elevation.

The discourse between the north and south facades parallels the dialogue between the heavy mass of the lower level and the lighter volume above, the former generating a connection with the earth, the latter a connection with the sky. This is architecture exploring the poetic and communicative potential of tectonic construction. The result is a meticulously crafted building that will endure the test of time.

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

Villa S

Here's a first glimpse of our recently completed residential project in Schriesheim, in southwest Germany. The villa is dramatically sited on a hillside above the historic town, with panoramic vistas 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.

More info to follow shortly.

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

Frankfurt am Main

These monolithic structures, which are constructed out of prefabricated concrete columns and platforms, deliver a dramatic and substantial balcony solution to this late nineteenth century apartment block, perfectly complementing the building's scale and massing. Both towers are freestanding as an historic preservation order protects the property's external fabric.

The concrete’s etched finish - the result of extensive testing with several 1:1 samples, incorporating various aggregates and pigments - references the use of red sandstone in the door and window trims. The objective here was not to copy the painted treatment of the material, but rather to articulate its core qualities - its colour, composition and texture - within a concrete template. And as a way of a counterpoint to the scheme’s solidity, self-supporting stainless steel railings elegantly enclose each floor plate.

The spindles in each railing section are set into 50mm deep countersunk stainless steel bushings. These cylindrical holes are precisely aligned, the result of being configured as a single unit within the pre-cast concrete mould, welded together with steel rods to eliminate any potential movement. In addition, during the casting process each bushing was fitted with a plastic insert to ensure its volumetric integrity. A circular steel plate surround completes the detail; these encase the spindles, slotting into the bushings and sitting flush with the floor.

Internally, the platforms are detailed with a 2% fall to allow for drainage. 3cm thick sandstone slabs, positioned on footings, provide a safe and durable walking surface, in keeping with both the concrete and building’s use of sandstone. Throughout the scheme, the modular nature of the architecture is subtly disseminated by a 10mm shadow gap detail.

In essence, the project’s materiality, tectonics and geometry represent a seamless integration of making and thought, culminating in two contextually measured structures that are well-honed, well-grounded and well-proportioned.

Prefabricated bespoke concrete and stainless steel railings
Frankfurt am Main, 2013
Villa W
Frankfurt am Main
(Under Construction)

Villa W resides in a suburb of Frankfurt. From the street its white monolithic form appears impenetrable, its windowless façade and recessed entranceway delineating a clear demarcation between the public and private realms. Surrounding properties are a mixture of two and three storey pitch roof housing. All have been carefully referenced in determining the project’s scale, mass and proportions. A series of setbacks on floors one and two allude to the timeless ziggurat form. And as a way of a vertical counterpoint to the building’s robust horizontality, the traditional chimney is articulated as an elegant rectilinear column.

The villa’s physical presence is palpable. The monochromatic walls are Romanesque in stature, which gives the building its immense sense of permanence. This is architecture communicating through its structural ontology the importance of place and dwelling.

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. The house is finished in a mineral based render, so preserving the breathability of the walls. As there is no specific 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: 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 structural credentials, courtesy of a large inverted concrete U-frame, allow for the insertion of a dramatic double height space (6m x 6m x 3.4m), which articulates these interiors as one large interconnected two-tier cuboid.

The glazing to the south elevation comprises a series of bespoke triple pane units: three for the ground floor (3.5m x 2.8m, 3m x 2.8m and 3.5m x 2.8m); three for first floor (3.5m x 2.6m, 3m x 2.6m and 3.5m x 2.6m); and two for second floor (3.5m x 2.4m and 3.8m x 2.4m). The scheme’s tectonic rigour is further disseminated through the inclusion of a substantial glass unit (6.0m x 2.8m) to the ground floor west elevation.

The second floor L shaped composition has full height glazing on three sides, which provides scenic views of the Tanus mountain range. A skylight situated above the stairwell delivers diffused north light. This soft, even illumination creates a sense of expectation as one ascends, which on fine days is heightened by diagonal rays of sunlight via the pavilion’s south west glazing. By contrast the north facing façade is solid, save for a translucent glazed unit as part of the front door design. The entranceway is recessed, allowing for a large rectangular slot to be detailed above. The resultant light gently illuminates the hallway, enabling the dwelling’s south elevation to draw one through and into the villa's main living area, a volumetric composition that disseminates the building's spatial tectonic stature.

Villa W,  Frankfurt am Main
High insulation clay blocks, cast in-situ concrete, glass and sandstone
Starts on site: November 2013
Modelmaker: Innovation Technologies GmbH,  Frankfurt am Main