The site for this five bedroom house is located in Solduno, an old village with traditional stone clad roofs, close to Locarno, Switzerland.
The amazing setting between the mountains and the lake gives the site a clear orientation with the main views towards Ascona and the lake “Lago Maggiore” to the front, and the steep mountains to the back.
The house opens itself up towards the valley, embracing the great panorama, while the backside of the house is dug into the mountain. The desire to add sufficient external shading to the facades lead to a large cantilever of the roof and the Skyframe. The Skyframe will eventually be filled in with ranking wine and other plants as well as textile sun shading elements. Using plants offers the benefit of increased day lighting levels during wintertime.
Both the roof cantilever and the Skyframe create a dynamic impression, lifting the house off the ground, shaping the perception of the building and furthering its integration into the dramatic setting.
Opening the building up to the valley does not just happen on the outside – the rising roof allows larger room heights to the front. Together with the full-height windows, the bedrooms embrace the abundant nature.
Organisation of the building
The different levels of the building all focus on the panoramic views they get. The living room and kitchen open up to the west terrace which offers a view of the lake and gets the afternoon and evening sun. The living room includes a separate space for the grand piano.
The entrance to the house offers good orientation with views to the kitchen, into the living room and up the stair. A large west-facing window upstairs even guides some evening sunlight into the entrance area. A Pantry, guest room and bathroom have been located towards the back of ground floor level.
The upper floor consists of four bed rooms and two bath rooms, a south facing balcony and the balcony above the entrance. There is a provision for a future external stair leading up to a roof terrace.
Design and Materials
The larch wood Skyframe, fascia and Attica panels dominate the appearance of the building, giving it a warm and natural general appearance. The larch wood has been left untreated and will weather naturally. The detailing of the Skyframe includes inclined top surfaces to ensure good water drainage. The façade panels in between are either glass or fibre reinforced concrete panels, the latter in three shades of blue, complementing the reflections of the windows and harmonizing nicely in dusk lighting.
The interior design takes up external materials with oak wood flooring and is else kept simple with a modern look and feel. The ground floor features full length bespoke corridor furniture, starting as bookshelf and cupboards and integrating the kitchen at the other end.
With its full height glass balustrade and solid oak steps, the slender steel frame stair is more a light object between the kitchen and the entrance.
The fireplace – part of the sustainability concept – is framed with a full-height slab of local granite, with the grain and texture running seamlessly across its three panels.
Bespoke internal doors are full height and flush with the adjacent walls. Terrace and entrance doors have been selected with minimal thresholds. The terraces and balconies maintain the indoor floor level. Some windows are frame-less fixed glazing, including a glass corner solution in the dining area, creating a sense of proximity with the nicely landscaped garden.
The house has been designed (and insulated) to low energy standards and no conventional heating has been installed. Instead, there are only solar collectors on the roof, providing energy for the low temperature under floor heating and most of the year also for hot water. During the cold and cloudy winter days, additional energy is generated through a heat exchange incorporated in the fireplace. Energy from the solar collectors is being preserved in a 4000L water tank in the basement.
Roof and walls have been insulated up to 400mm inside and even the basement has been wrapped in a layer of insulation.
Due to limited accessibility of the site, walls and ceilings were prefabricated and flown on site by helicopter. A timber frame construction has been chosen to allow large parts within the weight limits of the helicopter. Prefabrication also allows for a high degree of computer aided control over the design, a benefit when working on a project abroad.
Location: Locarno, Switzerland
Winner of the Green Good Design™ Award 2011