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House in Laax; Valerio Olgiati (Sebastian Carella); Photo: Archiv Olgiati

A design that goes into the depths: House in Laax

At a cursory glance the building appears to consist of two separate plain volumes positioned at opposite ends of the site – a solution that speaks of architectural ingenuity in response to requirements by the local planning authority and building restrictions that precluded any change to the central area of the plot. Indeed, only on closer inspection does it become evident that the two volumes are connected by underground corridor some 90 metres long that makes them component parts of a single-family home.

The two buildings differ in their surroundings due to the sheer length of the site. The lower-lying unit stands in close proximity to the village and is thus oriented to the activity of village life; the other abuts onto agricultural land.

In design the rectangular volumes make a plain impression on the outside, as evidenced by smooth facades that end in flat pitched roofs.  The main focus in both buildings is placed on the gable walls, each featuring a panorama window that creates a connection to the immediate surroundings while permitting unobstructed inward and outward views. The architects have managed to skilfully integrate the separate parts of the single-family residence into their busier and quieter contexts while creating a consistent impression at the same time. The two buildings work both as individual units and as part of a whole.

The interior rooms are spacious in effect and make a light-filled and friendly impression throughout, thanks to purposefully positioned skylights in the corridor area.  Floors are surfaced in pale stone and ceilings and walls are in the same plain, white in-site concrete of the outer facades, thus making a homogenous impression.  The central theme of the simple building is encountered in such small details as the cross-section of the long corridor and the cosy niches that provide places for withdrawal.

Programmatically the two houses are organised into differing functional areas. The building at the village end provides space for the children's bedrooms and guest rooms, while the other volume accommodates the study and the parents' bedroom.  The central element is made up of the corridor, conceptualised as an area of encounter and daily life and connecting both units together.

Coming with concrete core activation, geothermal probe heating and controlled ventilation of the living spaces, the single-family residence is also exemplary in energy efficiency terms.

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