The property is located on a steep slope at the foot of Pöstlingberg in the immediate vicinity of the Danube. Like all buildings along the main street of this residential estate, its width amounts to only 21 metres. Some of the neighbouring structures extend almost to the property’s boundary, making an east-west orientation less important.
The building is divided into two slim structures, which enhances the effect of the interspace between them, generating a strong relation between the two and ensuring the desired link between all floors on this steep site.
The design incorporates the topography of the site. Each floor is ideally adapted to its respective location on the steep slope, turning the conventional arrangement of public and private areas upside down. This house is structured from top to bottom.
The layout of the property is ideal for designs in accordance with the aforementioned principles. The rear of the building provides protection and is therefore raised, while the front side is open and wide. The site location above the Danube is perfect for this type of design.
The designation of spaces was the basis for the design, with its two structures (residential building and ‘sleeping’ building) joined by a subterranean passageway. Consequently, the two structures are not set against the slope, but are both positioned along the fall line to allow the energy of the slope flow through the centre. The structures appear to be one-storey on the sides that face the slope. The residential building on the south-east side almost seems withdrawn, while the sleeping building on the south-west side is open like a big gate. Formally, the two structures are perceived as twin or duplex houses. They appear unusual and familiar at the same. Their heights and dimensions are also very similar.
The exteriors of the structures follow the site boundaries, while their inner sides, which are facing each other, generate unique dynamics in this context.
Both houses feature irregularly inclined saddle roofs across the entire length of the respective structure. These roofs rise gradually from the side of the entrance and drop steeply at their narrowest point between the two buildings along the inclination of the slope. The varying inclinations of the roofs can be perceived in every room of the house, with ceiling heights of up to 5 metres.
As regards the layout, the way to the entrance door was particularly important for this project. It does not lead to the door in a straight line, but takes visitors to the rear of the structure via a roofed, concrete ramp that leads through the wide open gate of the car port. From this point, a wooden bridge branches off to the left and bridges the gap to the entrance of the residential building.
Regarding the residential building, a lobby is located behind the front door, leading to the waiting area of the treatment rooms, as well as to the private cloakroom. Natural light floods into the entrance area through a large window, affording a view of the front garden, as well as of the wooden bridge and of the neighbouring sleeping house. The sides of the Shiatsu treatment room are 3.6 metres long. The room is set up for treatments on eight tatami mats on the floor. These are used as flooring in traditional Japanese houses and may not be walked on with shoes. At night, a futon is set up on the tatami mats, turning this room into a sleeping area, and it can also be used as a guest room, as it can function as an independent unit due to the adjacent bathroom.
An oak wood staircase leads directly from the entrance area to the living area that comprises all functions from a lounge space to dining and cooking, in this order.
This is an area where everybody comes together, as the most public room in the house and the very centre of communal life. Residents and guests meet here to relax, listen to music, read, cook and communicate. There are almost no right angles in this entire, almost sacral room. The free-standing staircase, windows in various formats and on different levels, as well as ceiling heights of up to 5 metres up to the roof enhance this effect even further.
The living room consists of a fireplace, a fully glazed corner window with a panoramic view, and an elevated seating and reading area at parapet height (45cm), which also forms the backrest of the seating ensemble.
A sliding door provides a view of the wooden terrace that connects the two buildings on the outside.
The central dining area is located below the physiotherapy room, which is suspended from the roof with no supports. The kitchen with its island unit is right behind the dining space.
Oak shelves at the back of the dining space, adapted to the shape of the staircase, provide open storage space.
A subterranean passage way, naturally illuminated by the skylight dome above, leads to the sleeping house, by taking a left turn at the top of the staircase. This way also leads to the technical room, the WC and the utility room.
The sleeping house (north-west side) has hallways leading along its eastern side, leading from the bathroom to a recessed balcony. The bathroom, upgraded to a private wellness area, includes a view across the balcony into the alpine foothills, a shower with mirrored glass walls, an elevated rest area, and a view of the forest. The bedrooms are positioned towards the west. The children’s room includes a gallery, the master bedroom is situated across the hallway. Therefore both rooms are exposed to morning light from the east. The meditation room on the lowest level of the sleeping house can be accessed down a space-saving staircase, leading to the south-west garden at ground level.
In terms of construction and materials, the house is built right onto the slope and is based on foundation slabs made of reinforced concrete. Walls are only made of reinforced concrete if they touch the actual ground of the slope, while all other walls that are visible from the outside, as well as the roof, are made of wood.
Future-orientated, sustainable construction with healthy materials was of utmost importance to the client. Wood components are insulated with rock wool and the installation level was insulated with renewable materials such as hemp. The inner sides of the walls were clad with insulating soft-fibre boards and finished with clay plastering or a sand-coloured clay coating. The heating system consists of a heat pump, supported by a controlled interior ventilation system. The house was designed as a low-energy building.
Domestic larch wood was chosen for the outside of the exterior walls. The open and ventilated façade with vertically positioned boards and timber in various widths and depths, as a so-called ‘chaos formwork’, is a key element of the building’s distinctive look. These boards and timber were cut with a gang saw, dried and then brushed on the outside. This procedure reduces soft patches within the wood and ensures that the façade weathers evenly. Cork and cementitious coatings alternate throughout the flooring of the house. The wood and aluminium window frames consist of oiled larch wood on the inside and a pearlescent grey coating on the outside. They were either installed as flush windows or set deeply into the window space to create deep and useful recessed areas on the inside, as well as exciting incisions into the exterior façade.
A tree that had to be removed for the construction of this house was dried and stripped of its bark and is now used as a natural column, which supports the tip of the house and is a true testament to this building’s wooden structure.