LEAF Awards 2013 Winner: Residence in Switzerland
Text: Florian Maier
International Interior Design Award
Studio Seilern Architects, Lauenen, Switzerland
This residence is situated in Lauenen, a small Swiss village 7km away from the popular ski resort of Gstaad. Local planning regulations influenced the building height and size, and the pitch of the roof, and are imposed to keep a uniform and traditional aspect to the entire village. An in-depth study was undertaken of the chalet as a building type in order to understand the roots of the design and its divergence from the original peasant. The interpretation resulted in a purposefully sober and bold approach to the façade composition, using the farm typology in its most basic and original format.
All materials are kept in their rawest and most natural form, where the coolness of exposed concrete contrasts against the richness of the local roughened woodwork on the walls and ceilings. The floors are treated with over-sized birch whitened planks, creating variance in texture and bringing softness to the whole space. Large concrete walls are adorned with large artworks. The lighting was planned early on in the project so that it could be seamlessly integrated within the exposed concrete ceilings.
An expressive staircase is also used as illumination, where large sheets of semi-opaque glass structurally support a light timber stair. The opalescence of the glass conducts both the natural light from the skylights above during the day, while being up-lighted at night, turning the stairs into a soft light source at the core of the living area. The movement of people behind the glass adds to the drama of the space, and allows for a striking effect of multiple perceptions when looking through the glass.
Due to the planning restrictions and the slope of the site, half of the ground floor was below grade. Introducing an additional sub-level with a large glazed opening cut into the slope allowed an increase the expected number of bedrooms to ten, as well as a large open-plan living areas with a triple-height ceiling. The two lower-level bedrooms are configured so that at a later stage, these could easily be transformed into a swimming pool.
The site restraints also implied that the depths of the chalet would be deprived of sunlight. The solution centred on creating a 6m-high exposed concrete light well with a reflector at its core, bringing light into the depth of the plan. The result is a polished steel tunnel that connects the upper apartment living area to the master bedroom, while acting like a giant light reflector in the lower apartments.
Size of project: 750m²
Cost: CHF 5 million
Start date: 2006
Completion date: 2011
LEAF Awards jury statement
This ingenious scheme, situated in Lauenen, a small Swiss village 7km from the ski resort of Gstaad, involved a masterplan for the location of 2500m2 of residential units and a garage, and the redesign of the middle of the three chalets, bringing a contemporary language to a traditional, chalet building type. 2 distinct apartments have been created out of one chalet by splitting it into 2 interlocking L-shapes. They each share one common entrance, and with the further removal of one non-structural wall, the 2 apartments can be reconfigured into one large residence with minimal reconstruction.
While all the materials, including concrete and wood, are kept in their rawest form, the interior spaces, the overall appearance is atmospheric, welcoming and innovative. The architects successfully expand the available space, in spite of planning restrictions and the slope of the site, by introducing an additional sub-level with a large glazed opening cut into the slope, as well as large, open-plan living areas with triple ceiling heights. The two lower-level bedroom are configured so that at a later stage, these can be easily transformed into a swimming pool. All in all, a masterly adaptive and innovative design for a living space.