Villa S

Villa S is a cast in-situ concrete house, situated on a hillside above Schriesheim, in Baden-Württemberg, in southwest Germany. From its elevated position, the villa 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 building in its culture and topography.

The lower 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 the result of the double concrete wall system. Structurally, the internal wall is load-bearing, enabling the outer wall to function as formidable facing. The deeply set glazing at the front of house strikingly disseminates the solidity and gravitas of this double concrete skin.

Within the lower block, bedrooms and bathrooms are safely cocooned from the outside world. Above, the pavilion-like configuration - home to the living area and kitchen - engages with the landscape and the elements. The sliding glass panels and the Brazilian slate tiling used inside and out provide a seamless connectivity between the living room and terrace, which collectively measure 135sqm.

The lower ground floor is larger measuring 175 sqm. 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, another two bedrooms being easily configured within the grid like structure; a utility and washroom; a general storage space and a dedicated room for the building’s electrics and heating system.

On both levels the ceiling heights are generous: 2.6m for the lower ground floor and 2.85m upstairs, the latter matching the extent of the dramatic cantilever that extends beyond the living space. This structural rigour is also evident in the large rectangular aperture that cantilevers nearly 5m at the rear of the property. These two tectonic elements, together with the slender concrete columns used in the upper section, articulate the roof as a well-defined plane, harmonizing with the strong horizontal lines of the base design.

Within this exacting dynamic the bespoke meranti doors and window frames perfectly complement the white concrete, the Brazilian slate and the opaque glass panels that form part of the fenestration to the side and rear elevations.

This holistic approach to detailing is also evident in the same lamp specification for both internal and external usage. Two additional factors were also vital: the light fitting being able to work within the structural parameters of the cast in-situ concrete ceilings, and a design able to complement the scheme’s pared-back aesthetic. Existing fittings were researched but there was nothing appropriate. The solution is the villa’s very own luminaire.

The outer casing, measuring 12cm x12cm x 8cm, is milled from a solid block of aluminum. 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, so maximising 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 robustly symmetrical which provides a strong counterpoint to the asymmetric composition of the north elevation, its rectangular framed cantilever emphatically defining the main entranceway.

The discourse between the north and south elevations 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 - its form, materiality and massing being a seamless integration of making and thought.

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.
12 x12

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

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