Villa S

A cast in-situ concrete house dramatically sited on a hillside above Schriesheim, In Germany. Schriesheim / Germany / 2014

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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 spectacular 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 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 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, 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, kitchen, and the building’s stairwell which provides access to the garage and also to a toilet and washroom facility. The villa’s terrace, on the south side, accessed via three elegant sliding glass panels, completes the floor 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 interiors are generous and well proportioned, the main living area, in particular, delivering a real sense of grandeur, suffused as it with natural sunlight and commanding as it does such expansive vistas, all of which is framed and contained by the roof’s bold horizontal form. This cantilevers 2.6m on the south side; while, on the north side, it manifests itself as a seemingly gravity defying open canopy that emphatically defines the entranceway, its 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, the lamp 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.


Within this dynamic, the heavy mass of the lower level generates a connection with the earth; and the lighter structure above, a connection with the sky. This is architecture exploring the communicative potential of construction. The result is a dwelling that looks and feels timeless, completely at home in its surroundings.

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    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 spectacular 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...

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