Even the most modest building projects can change the perception of an entire city—especially when they are the inspiration for a wave of like-minded designs. Anyone can contribute to a greener city, which is why smartvoll architects tackled the topics of redensification and green building all on their own. Setting an example in Vienna’s 16th district, they have designed the Urban Treehouse, an attic conversion that preserves biodiversity and keeps tenants cool.
“Projects like this are free of partisan politics. Any building owner can decide to design
a conversion like this and play an active role in improving the urban environment,” says
In the Green
The advantages of nestling these green jewels into urban spaces are clear: The plants filter out fine dust and give off oxygen. They provide shade and increase humidity, which lowers the temperature of the surrounding area. And of top of everything, green makes people happy. The positive and regenerative effect that plants and greenspace can have on mental health is well documented. Until now, Vienna’s 16th district has suffered from a distinct lack of such greenspaces, both micro and macro. A former working-class district, every square meter was used for housing. From the air, it’s easy to spot the stark difference between the gray of the 16th district and the otherwise vividly green Vienna. This is exactly why smartvoll architects have chosen this as the site of their Urban Treehouse.
smartvoll conceived their design to harmonize with the surrounding Gründerzeitera buildings which dominate the district. But instead of the classic Gründerzeit loft conversion, this project is a haven of green, sprawling across three stories and 130 square meters. The roof truss was removed first, revealing a staircase and two high firewalls. In most redesigns, a space like this would have been built up and completely filled in. Yet here, only 50 percent of the attic area has been turned into indoor space; the rest remains open, creating room to breathe and allowing the focal point to emerge: Green Mass Not Building Mass
Light, Air, and Openness
The building emerges vertically from its surroundings, framed on all sides by trees and greened walls. Upstairs, you will find an office, open kitchen, and living room. One floor further up is a bedroom with a one-of-a-kind view, seen from the adjoining bathroom as well. The only thing separating the bathroom from an expanse of green is just a pane of glass. The ratio of surrounding greenspace to building area is roughly 50/50, creating an interplay between intimacy and openness and green, between seeing in and looking out, between nature and the surrounding buildings. But the centerpiece is the open kitchen, a hybrid of outdoor and indoor space. In summer, the glazed ground floor can be opened completely, on all sides. This building blurs boundaries.
Here at smartvoll, we don’t see interior design and architecture as separate entities; they are interdependent, and we consider every aspect of their relationship at every stage of the work. Particularly in the case of the Urban Treehouse, this approach creates a very special atmosphere and a building that evokes the feeling of a walk in the park.
“Not only does the urban climate as a whole benefit from green buildings like this, but so does biodiversity. According to a United Nations biodiversity report, up to 130 species of animals and plants die every day. Buildings like our urban treehouse provide a habitat not just for people, but for plants and animals as well,” says Christian Kircher.
Even the most modest building projects can change the perception of an entire city—especially when they are the inspiration for a wave of like-minded designs. Anyone can contribute to a greener city, which is why smartvoll architects tackled the topics of redensification and green building all on their own. Setting an example in Vienna’s 16th district, they have designed the Urban Treehouse, an attic conversion that preserves biodiversity and keeps tenants cool. “Projects...
- Year 2021
- Main structure Mixed structure
- Status Unrealised proposals
- Type Apartments / Single-family residence