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The prospect of designing a vacation house in the Swiss Alps must be thrilling and daunting at the same time, much like the experience of being above the clouds in the image at left. The scenery and the terrain, though, make many of the decisions pretty obvious, such as where to site the building and how to deal with orientation. Nevertheless, Andreas Fuhrimann Gabrielle Hächler's restrained design, that takes its cues from its surroundings, holds its own in its stunning context.

According to the architects, they chose to site the house "on the periphery of the property so that the distance to the neighboring houses was as large as possible and so that the option of constructing another building could be left open." This relative isolation helps to preserve the important views of the Alps while, along with the site's slope, also creating a covered entry into the lowest level of the house, apparent in this section. From this basement level, one ascends into the very open living area and the sundeck. Up one more level are the bedrooms.

The image at left clearly illustrates the way the architects closed the building off to the north and the slope above, obviously opting to focus views and light to the south. This orientation is most clear in the living area, where a 5 meter (16 feet) picture window frames an incredible view of the mountains beyond. The architects created built-in seating in response to this view.

Materials throughout the house are a combination of rough and smooth, natural and man-made, from the concrete basement and predominantly wood walls, floors, and ceilings, to the smooth and shiny synthetic kitchen surfaces and stainless steel bathroom. So given the site and the need for a vacation house, is the architect's response appropriate? Another response may have opted for more glazing on the south faces, but the selective framing here makes the view that much more impressive and important.

 

Holiday House on the Rigi, Scheidegg, Switzerland by Andreas Fuhrimann Gabrielle Hächler

2006.11.13

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