Captivating and changing family house

Haus für Julia & Björn in Egg, Austria by Innauer-Matt Architekten

In a valley in Austria stands a modern homage to wood. The eye-catching grid-patterned façade on the house changes depending on where you stand.

A DISCREET YET noble villa. This is how Austrian architect Sven Matt proudly describes his creation on a hillside in the village of Egg, in the Austrian region of Bregenzerwald. His ‘Haus für Julia und Björn’ is a detached two-storey house in the local vernacular, with fascinating details on the exterior and interior.

“The look of the house is traditional with a modern touch. The windows are larger and the façade more exciting, but otherwise the building looks like a typical Bregenzerwald house.”

The family has chosen a hilly spot of great natural beauty as the site for their home. The house stands between a large linden tree and a stubby walnut tree, with views across a valley of shifting colours in 50 shades of green. Occupying the house is a family who wanted an airy place to live, where they could spend time with friends and relatives.

Before the actual construction, which was completed in 2013, the Austrian architectural firm Innauer-Matt Architekten had an almost two-year long dialogue with the clients about design features and solutions.

“The site of the build was complicated because of the steep slope,” explains Sven Matt.

The architect solved the problem of the slope by placing the main entrance on the upper floor and constructing a staircase that leads down to the open-plan lower floor. The bottom part of the house is built into the slope. Integrated into the carcass of the house, there are also two sheltered patios with superb views across the valley.

THE BUILDING’S GRID-PATTERNED façade is made from three layers of wooden laths, with a Stamisol roof membrane as a wind and rain barrier.

“The look of the façade changes, depending on where you stand. The more you look at the house straight on, the more transparent it appears to be,” says Sven Matt.

The exterior façade comprises rough-sawn white spruce. Spruce also dominates the interior, with all the floors and furniture made from the same material. This was an obvious choice for both the architect and the clients. The white spruce comes from the nearby forest, which belongs to the homeowners. In addition, the local craftsmen have an intimate knowledge of the material.

“Spruce is a good price, high quality and available locally. It’s also easy to work with and has an interesting appearance. The disadvantage is that the wood is quite soft and easily damaged. On the other hand, it develops an attractive patina,” states Sven Matt.

The structure of the upper part was prefabricated in wood, complete with insulation and interior panelling and exterior cladding. The façade and fittings were manufactured on site and Sven Matt says he wanted to create a contrast between the lower floor with its airy social spaces and the more private rooms of the upper floor. He achieved this by building the upper floor in wood and the lower floor in concrete. The structural frame forms the foundation for the open-plan solution that stretches throughout the building. A dividing wall with a built-in fireplace separates the dining room from the living room. The fire heats the hot water and provides a heat source for the whole building.

On the upper floor, the family’s private rooms are lined up in a row, with the family’s large bedrooms at the far end of the corridor, followed by three small rooms that lead to the garage.

“Since we’ve only worked with one material, the small rooms feel bigger than they look on the plans,” says Sven Matt.

FOR HIM as an architect, it was important that all the craftsmen and subcontractors were involved in the whole design and building process.

“Thanks to their knowledge, we were able to create details of the highest quality and complete the construction process very quickly, in contrast to the design phase.”

TEXT: Caroline Engvall

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