Overhanging floor plates delineate the levels of this house in the woods outside Utrecht by architecture studios Powerhouse Company and RAU (+ slideshow).
Home to a family of five, the house comprises three storeys, including one that is buried underground. Living and dining rooms occupy the ground floor, while bedrooms are located upstairs and the basement floor contains guest rooms and a swimming pool.
The architects conceived the top floor as a "village of cabins", which follow a different outline to the ground floor below. To achieve this, they installed a complex steel frame that surrounds a set of five rectilinear volumes.
"One of the most important aspects of the house is the amazing steel structure," Powerhouse Company's Stijn Kemper told Dezeen. "There is this 11-metre free cantilever that makes the design possible, but the funny thing is that it's completely covered up, so you never see the structure. It's a strange experience."
Different materials are applied to the facades at each level. On the ground floor, a wall of glazing fronts the garden-facing south facade, while the rear is clad with a mixture of glossy travertine and mirrored glass. To contrast, the top floor walls are covered with dark-stained wood but are also interspersed with mirrored glass windows.
Two hollows in the ground surrounding the house slope down to meet the basement floor, helping to bring natural light to the swimming pool and two guest bedrooms.
A small pavilion at the other end of the garden provides a playroom for the children. More mirrored glass is used to clad this structure, which can also be used as a separate guest house.
Charles Bessard and Nanne de Ru founded Powerhouse Company in 2005, with offices in Rotterdam and Copenhagen. This isn't the first time the firm has teamed up with Amsterdam studio RAU, as the pair worked together to design a competition-winning dance and music centre for The Hague.
Photography is by Christian van der Kooy.
Here's some more explanation from Powerhouse Company:
Villa L - Paradox of Uniting Diversity
Powerhouse Company, in close collaboration with RAU, recently completed Villa L. Designed to fulfill the desires and needs of a young family, Villa L is set in the woods of central Netherlands, fully oriented towards the sun and the views on the garden. Villa L is a spatially diverse residence where every floor has its own strong identity, creating a broad spatial spectrum within a unified whole.
A young family with three children asked Powerhouse Company to design a house that would fulfill their dreams: a paradox of a house that is simple yet surprising, open yet specific, minimal yet luxurious. Powerhouse Company resolved these contradictions with a sustainable design for a house based on a radical differentiation of spatial experiences on three floors (of which one is subterranean); the maximum buildable size on this site. Three clear levels, with three very different characters and functionalities as a basis for family life to emerge.
One level is for living, a generously open ground floor. A strip of serving rooms containing storage, toilets and stairs, provides easily access to the luxuriously open living spaces. The kitchen and living room are oriented maximally to the sun and view. In close relation to this living area there are two studies located on the north side next to the entrance.
Village of cabins
The collection of rooms on the first floor provides space for sleeping and privacy. Set in a delicate roof garden, all the bedrooms are autonomous volumes crafted in their entirety from dark wood. They work like a village of cabins, providing intimacy and privacy. Every room is like a world of its own with private views over the wooded landscape.
Wellness and retreat
The curved basement is for guests, wellness and storage. The excavations allow the pool and the guest rooms to have fully glazed facades and direct access to the garden.
RAU designed innovative sustainable measures including a hot and cold-water storage and extensive use of hidden PV cells. The basement contains a dedicated area for the high-end energy saving installations.
A house designed for the hectic life of an evolving family; fragmented yet united, plural yet whole.
The audacious structural engineer Gilbert van der Lee, also responsible for engineering Villa 1, designed the structure, including the soaring ceiling of the living room. The interior furnishings are designed by interior designer Bart Vos.
Above: site plan
Location: near Utrecht, The Netherlands
Partner in charge: Nanne de Ru
Co-architect: Thomas Rau
Design: Nanne de Ru, Charles Bessard
Project leader: Stijn Kemper
Team: Ard-Jan Lootens, Bjørn Andreassen
Above: exploded axonometric
Structural engineering: Gilbert van der Lee - BREED Integrated Design
Sustainability: Thomas Rau - RAU
Project management: Stef Pierik - Pierik Projecten Groep BV
Contractor: Coen Hagedoorn Bouwgroep BV
Landscape design: Sander Lap - LAP Landscape & Urban design
Interior design: Bart Vos - VOS Interieur
Above: ground floor plan - click for larger image
Above: first floor plan - click for larger image
Above: basement floor plan - click for larger image
- Slideshow feature: London 2012 Olympic… architecture photographed by Edmund Sumner
- Furniture from Buildings by Architectk…idd and Osisu
- Strips of local spruce clad Haus Feurs…tein by Innauer‐Matt Architekten
- Pedestrian Crossing by Atelier 9.81
- Galeria.Solar.S.Roque by Manuel Maia G…omes
- Passive Houses by Kjellgren Kaminsky
- Rattan Tunnel at Bacanalia by Natalia …Ortega Gámez and Jose Thén
- Paul Chevallier School by Tectoniques
- Mies van der Rohe Award 2009 shortlist
Sign up for a daily roundup
of all our stories