Haus Rüscher


Sloping meadows and woodland thickets are all that surrounds this boxy concrete house in the mountains of western Austria by local studio OLKRÜF (+ slideshow).

Haus Rüscher by OLKRÜF

Haus Rüscher is located around a kilometre away from the nearest village and OLKRÜF designed the house as two self-contained buildings that impact as little possible on the surrounding countryside. "It was important for the client to build a very compact house that would not spoil the local landscape by sealing over the top surface with unnecessary concrete, gravel or tarmac," the architects explain.

Haus Rüscher by OLKRÜF

The outer shell of each building comprises a single casting of concrete, designed to reference the solid volumes of the surrounding mountains. "The most challenging part of the project was the single-piece construction," architect John Read told Dezeen.

Haus Rüscher by OLKRÜF

The larger of the two buildings contains the living rooms and bedrooms, while the smaller structure is a guesthouse with a sauna and shower room in the basement.

Haus Rüscher by OLKRÜF

In the main house, split levels differentiate between the living room and kitchen on the ground floor, while upstairs the children's room sits lower than the master bedroom to allow enough ceiling height for bunk beds.

Haus Rüscher by OLKRÜF

Exposed concrete walls are sandblasted to create smooth interior surfaces on the lower level. Floors are lined with elm boards, which also clad the walls and ceilings in the bedrooms.

Haus Rüscher by OLKRÜF

Large windows pierce the concrete facade on different sides to give residents clear views across the mountain and forest landscape.

Haus Rüscher by OLKRÜF

"The most successful thing for us was managing not to compromise on the design from start to finish," added Read. "That is something that rarely happens in the industry, but in this case the final result is almost identical to the original concept. Partly this was due to our perseverance and partly it was due to the client believing and sharing in our vision."

Haus Rüscher by OLKRÜF

See more Austrian houses on Dezeen, including one that appears to climb down a hill.

Haus Rüscher by OLKRÜF

Photography is by Adolf Bereuter.

Haus Rüscher by OLKRÜF

Here's some more information from the architects:

Haus Rüscher


As solitary solid masses embedded in the landscape sits the project Haus R. It hangs on a steep incline at almost 1100 m in altitude and a kilometre from the nearest village of Schnepfau. To the north, the houses back on to thick woodland that cover the rest of the hill, in all other directions lay pasture lands. Because of the elevated position the house enjoys incredible views in every direction, especially of the Kanisfluh mountain and the valleys of the Bregenzerwald.

Haus Rüscher by OLKRÜF

The sparsely populated landscape is reflected in the simple form and basic materials chosen for the design. The double shell is constructed without any horizontal construction joints. The entire outer wall was constructed as one solid piece. In this way the solid concrete hull corresponds to the simple mass of the surrounding mountains. The grassland grows right to the edge of the building to emphasize the concept of the house as a rock emerging from the ground naturally. In addition, a small guest house was included in the design that abides by the same rules of design. It compliments and emphasises the first by creating a ‘natural rock formation’ rather than a solitary monument.

Haus Rüscher by OLKRÜF


It was important for the client to build a very compact house that would not spoil the local landscape by sealing over the top surface with unnecessary concrete, gravel or tarmac. The top surface surrounding the building had to remain as natural as possible.

Haus Rüscher by OLKRÜF

It was also important that house had a generous living space for entertaining and accommodating guests, but should not be too big for everyday use. As well as providing open space, the design had to incorporate smaller, more intimate areas for when people wished to relax in peace. The guest house and the separation of the sleeping rooms using split levels, are a result of these thought processes.

Haus Rüscher by OLKRÜF

From the mountain track leads a set of stairs between the two houses, which are both entered from the rear, so that the entrances are not visible from the track.

Haus Rüscher by OLKRÜF

The ground floor is shared into separate zones through different room heights in the living and eating area, the kitchen and the circulation paths. The high ceilings in the living space allow incredible views in all directions. In the west, the rooms entire height and width is glazed to give a panoramic view of the surroundings. The lower kitchen area is orientated towards the open living room, above which a vertical air space flows through all the levels. The first floor and cellar levels are reached through a set of floating wooden stairs that pierce the concrete of the outer wall, supporting themselves on one side only.

Haus Rüscher by OLKRÜF

Above: site plan

The differing room heights also resulted from the needs of the two very different sleeping rooms. The lower sleeping room was designed for the children, and was intended to be able to accommodate a double bed or bunk bed system and therefore utilises an intentionally higher format. Latching on to the side of this room is the slightly bigger main bedroom, which has a normal room height and enjoys views of the Kanisfluh. In addition, the guest house bedroom replicates the feel and elegant style of the main house but in miniature. In the cellar, beside the storage rooms and the technical room, there is a small sauna and separate shower room.

Haus Rüscher by OLKRÜF

Above: ground floor plan

Materials and Construction

The 65cm thick hull of the building was formed in two parts: The outer shell and the core insulation managed to avoid the usual visible construction joints by being constructed from one continuous piece of concrete over 9.5 meters in height. Connecting on the inside, the internal walls are also constructed in one solid piece, with the interior walls, for the most part, echoing this process by casting several walls straight through multiple levels in a single piece. The floors are then set into place afterwards by drilling metal into the triple height finished wall to provide the basis for the supporting structure.

Haus Rüscher by OLKRÜF

Above: first floor plan

All the exposed concrete areas in Haus R have a sandblasted finish, the floor is fitted out in Elm and in the cellar the floor is finished in polished screed. By contrast, the two bedrooms (and the guest house) are completely clad in wood. The windows in these rooms are flush with the outside of the building whereas the windows on the ground floor are flush with the inside of the building, this was to allow the inclusion of sun blinds that prevent overheating in during the summer. The jamb is constructed entirely from concrete all the way up to the beginning of the window frame.

Haus Rüscher by OLKRÜF

Above: section

Both roofs were designed inverted. As an important fifth facade, they were finished with a layer of large format prefabricated concrete slabs. The house is also fitted out with a ground source heat pump that provides the majority of the energy for the under floor heating all year round.

Haus Rüscher by OLKRÜF

Above: front elevation

The thermal mass of the building is exceptional for its size due to the buildings extensive use of exposed concrete within the insulation shell. This provides stable warmth through the winter months and a consistent cooling effect during the hot summer days.

Haus Rüscher by OLKRÜF

Above: side elevation

The construction of the building was very complicated and challenging for the many reasons; the concrete walls were cast in one single piece which was experimental for both the builders and the architects. The mountain weather was unpredictable and often extreme. Site access was difficult for the heavy construction vehicles. And the large format windows, that were inserted into the concrete jamb, had very little margin for error.

Haus Rüscher by OLKRÜF

Above: rear elevation

However, the house, from the initial design to the finished building hardly changed at all. This was only possible due to an intense and detailed communication between the architect, the construction company and the client. An important element in this process was the guest house.

Haus Rüscher by OLKRÜF

Above: side elevation

It was constructed using the exact same methods and materials as the main building and provided a useful proving ground. In this way all parties were able to evaluate and optimize the experimental construction methods for the main building, ensuring a very high quality finish.

  • mrswoo

    Such Geisha steps, lacking both in depth and width – unless the photography is deceiving. People are often mean when designing steps.

  • mrswoo

    I see now from the side view that the steps are quite deep which is good but they still are very narrow which is not good for loading and unloading big things up into the house. No chatting in a desultory manner with someone whilst walking down to the road, either.

  • Concerned Citizen

    Go down two flights of stairs with an upset stomach in the middle of the night. I see a big brown mess all over the wood treads.

    • Rob

      Please don’t be so ‘concerned’… little things like this will keep you from experiencing a life of design. If it is such a problem, move over and let those who appreciate design the platform to enjoy.

  • Davide

    Father: “Son, go take a shower”
    Son: “But where, Father”
    Father: “in the lake, behind the woods”
    Son: “….”

    • cerena

      Look at drawings and read the text genius! You might be suprised, they actually managed not to forget about the bathrooms.

  • rob

    Conceptually nice, similar to what Pezo & von Ellrichshausen do. Technically a bit bizarre to complicate your life so much only to avoid joints (they sandblasted the whole thing anyway). More serious is the lacking of exhaust system in the kitchen, a proper bathroom only somewhere hidden in the cellar, lacking of fall-through protection in the window of the children’s room etc.

    All for aesthetic reasons I suppose, but if you’re not able to satisfy these basic needs properly in the design/distribution of a house because it’s ugly or doesn’t fit you simply do not pass the test.

    • Fred

      Why would you have fall-through protection on a fixed window? Look at the size of it! There is no hinge on earth that could support a triple-glazed window that big.

      And sandblasting only smoothes the surface, it doesn’t remove joint scars. If you want to go for perfection you have to try something more ambitious like this.

      As for an extractor fan (monstrosity) in the kitchen, there are several hidden types and/or they could simply be using a mechanical ventilation which is much more common in Austria than in the English-speaking world. They are far more advanced than Britain or America in architectural technology. There isn’t even one company in the UK that produces triple glazing. That for me is the biggest embarrassment.

  • Michael

    Concrete bunkers. What can I say? How long will they last?

  • Paul

    Raumplan is back!

  • Dan

    A door into the first bedroom would be useful!

  • Kenneth Smythe

    Minimalist architecture from a minimal imagination.

  • bill

    Bizarrely negative comments – this is a great project!

  • James

    I’m guessing this kitchen has never witnessed somebody scoff a Pot Noodle. It’s so beautiful.

  • Brrr.

  • Ciar

    Where is the Joy?

  • Wolfgang

    This is very cool :)