Ecological house in a glass box raised above
the landscape by Paul de Ruiter Architects


One half of this energy-efficient house in the Netherlands by Paul de Ruiter Architects is raised above the landscape in a glazed box, while the other half is buried underneath a pool of water (+ slideshow).

Villa Kogelhof by Paul de Ruiter Architects

Amsterdam firm Paul de Ruiter Architects was asked to design a home that would provide a comfortable environment all year round while minimising its energy use and impact on a site in a protected ecological area.

Villa Kogelhof by Paul de Ruiter Architects

"It was an important wish from our client to create a simple, abstract, yet spectacular villa," said the architects. "The result is a composition; consisting of two square stacked volumes: one underground and one floating above ground."

Villa Kogelhof by Paul de Ruiter Architects

The house's upper storey seems to hover above the landscape, supported by a V-shaped steel frame at one end and a glazed box at the other containing a staircase that links it with the underground space.

Villa Kogelhof by Paul de Ruiter Architects

The main living area, kitchen, three bedrooms, bathrooms and a multifunctional space are housed in the elongated volume above ground. Glass doors and partitions separate the various spaces on this level, including a walled-in patio with the living space and the master bedroom on either side.

Villa Kogelhof by Paul de Ruiter Architects

Below ground, another rectangular box arranged perpendicular to the upper storey houses a huge garage, as well as storage, a bathroom and an office. A large picture window at the end of the office overlooks an artificial lake and the flat Dutch landscape beyond.

Villa Kogelhof by Paul de Ruiter Architects

Throughout the interior, white walls and epoxy floors contribute to a clean and minimal environment that focuses attention on the views provided by the full-height glazing.

Villa Kogelhof by Paul de Ruiter Architects

In order to build on the site, which is a habitat for many plants and animals, the owners were required to return what had previously been farmland to its original pre-agricultural state. They planted 71,000 young trees that will eventually obscure the house from view and added a rectangular pond above the underground storey.

Villa Kogelhof by Paul de Ruiter Architects

Energy-saving techniques employed in the building include a fabric screen built into the insulated glazed facade that can be rolled down to reflect the sun, and create a void between the glass and the screen through which ventilation flows.

Villa Kogelhof by Paul de Ruiter Architects

Wood from the private forest will be burned to heat water for the house once the trees have matured, while photovoltaic cells on the roof and a planned windmill will generate electricity.

Photography is by Jeroen Musch.

Here's a project description from the architects:

Villa Kogelhof

Villa Kogelhof is designed based on complete autarky: therefore the house will be energy neutral. By using several techniques, the villa has a comfortable climate all seasons, whilst being extremely energy efficient. It was an important wish from our client to create a simple, abstract, yet spectacular villa. The result is a composition; consisting of two square stacked volumes: one underground and one floating above ground. It is designed as an uncompromising glass box, supported by a steel V-frame.

Villa Kogelhof by Paul de Ruiter Architects
Site plan - click for larger image

Contemporary estate

The 25 hectare estate is part of a larger program initiated by the government, which aims to connect regional ecological zones throughout the country. The current owner bought the site, once farmland, in 2006. It is a protected habitat for animals and plants and a major tourist draw in the area, open to the public.

Villa Kogelhof by Paul de Ruiter Architects
Basement plan - click for larger image

Permission to build a house on the land was given only on condition that it was returned to its pre-agricultural state. The planning of some 71,000 six-year-old trees hint at the future of the estate as ‘a villa in the woods’ and were planted already in 2006. A rectangular pond was dug, requiring the removal of 70,000 cubic metres of soil.


The underground volume of the house consists the entrance, parking (for 6 cars and a tractor), storage, bathroom and a workspace which looks out over the pond. The living area is situated in the floating glass box above ground. It’s floor plan is completely open, except for some subtle glass room dividers.

Villa Kogelhof by Paul de Ruiter Architects
Ground floor - click for larger image

There are several separate volumes for the kitchen, bedrooms, bathroom and a multifunctional room. The patio has glass doors on both sides, so that it’s both accessible through the living room and the bathroom. The entire floor is covered with white epoxy and the furniture consists of designer classics from Le Corbusier and Eileen Grey. The façade is completely made out of glass and offers a spectacular view over the surrounding landscape.

Villa Kogelhof by Paul de Ruiter Architects
First floor plan - click for larger image

Self sufficient

One of the main principles of Villa Kogelhof was to translate luxury into the happiness of independence. The goal for the villa was to be self-sufficient; to generate its own energy, to heat its own water and to recycle the garbage.

Villa Kogelhof by Paul de Ruiter Architects
Long section - click for larger image

To make sure Villa Kogelhof is energy neutral, the façade offers an important contribution. This so called climate-façade is composed of an outer layer of clear insulated glass from floor to ceiling and an inner layer of sun-reflecting fabric that can be rolled up and unrolled. When the fabric is lowered, an air cavity is formed in which the air from the villa is extracted of a central ventilation system.

Villa Kogelhof by Paul de Ruiter Architects
Cross section - click for larger image

The house is heated by a central heating system in combination with an air pump. Warm water will in the near future be generated by using a range stove, in which wood will be fired from the trees out of the private forest of the estate. Electricity is generated from the PV-cells on the roof and also from the planned windmill.

  • Marcel

    Also a very ecological car, I see.

  • phijel

    Energy neutral and a garage for 6 cars? Yeah right…

  • Jeroen van Lith

    This is for archdaily

  • Marcos

    How is a house that fits six cars in the garage ecological, just because it generates the energy to its own excesses?

  • madbarka

    Spectacular indeed. Architecture for an egomaniac who thinks that digging a 70,000 cubic metre hole in the ground to house six cars and a tractor is a good thing for the countryside. So where did the 70,000m3 of earth go? To prop up a dyke?

    I wonder if the 71,000 six year-old trees are planted in a nice grid arrangement to enhance the natural ecology or to shut out the visiting public? How many years will it take generating its own electricity to become energy neutral?

  • Paul

    Absolutely stunning. Wonder what it is going to look like with trees around it. It being alone in the landscape is quit eerie and spectacular.

  • jeremy

    Ecological house? Really? Five-car garage, tonnes of concrete… sure it may be efficient to heat or cool, but the effort and embodied energy involved in building it surely negates this?

    How about this as a question: If everyone in the world built an ‘ecological house’ like this, what would the impact be?
    There is a difference between not using much power to run a household and actually giving a sh*t about the environment.

  • T,.T

    Name a few eco-cars please.

  • natu

    Ugh, this is too artificial for a living space. I think one day the owner would like to open the window…

  • Nikola

    How much electricity is necessary for an year of using that house? After that information, we will talk if this is ecological.

  • JayCee

    Post-apocalyptic chic


      Continuing on this theme: when the sea rises resulting from our gluttonous use of fossil fuels and much of the Netherlands floods, the garage and its precious contents will no longer be of use. They can take it all in from their elevated platform – if the trees don’t block their view of course.

  • Ignacio

    It´d be more ecological without so many sport cars. I find this project a bit contradictory.

  • KG

    Very beautiful and strong element in the flat landscape! But what’s ecological about it? Lesson 1 in ecological design: minimise the surface of facades and floor/roof. A lot of techniques are necessary to make it ecological or sustainable.

  • Mario

    And an icon was born.

  • Neal Gorenflo

    And who would want to live in that mausoleum? Super sterile.

  • Chris MacDonald

    Big fan of minimalism/modernism, but this is so stark and empty that it makes my soul weep just to look at it.

    • Philip

      It’s not for you. What a relief. Move on.

  • Mac

    Those columns are massive!

  • A.L.

    This bridge-shaped house, with cars just below it, reminds me of a famous restaurant located “over” the motorway connecting Milan to Venice and built in the 70s… (vintage pic at the link below)

  • Rae Claire

    So they planted a forest so they can burn it up? What about the smoke? Where I live, wood burning is heavily regulated and banned if the weather isn’t exactly right.

  • Londonboy

    Wow. Excellent. More, more. Need to do something about the bleak landscape though.

  • Londonboy

    Cannot believe the comments about how this is not environmentally friendly. This house is clearly an improvement to the bleak and moonlike landscape.

  • Torquee

    Hey come on, it’s an electric car – Fisker Karma.

  • Steeevyo

    A house with a sixth facade is not environmentally friendly. No need to censor my comment. It is common sense.

  • Really

    “a rectangular pond was digged”

    • Hi,

      Thanks for pointing this out. We’ve corrected the project description.

      Kind regards,


  • Jamie

    It’s keeping them off the road at least!

  • jcon

    The six cars probably aren’t being driven simultaneously. The owner is most likely a collector. The Fisker shown parked out front is an electric vehicle.

  • Concerned Citizen

    Holland has nice weather in the summer, spring, and fall, so why can’t they open the windows and do without the A/C for a while?

  • Mies called. He’d like his villa credited.

  • Leiurus

    James Bond villain house. I hear the (relevant) critics above but I still love it.

  • cvduring

    I guess they don’t take into account grey energy. It’s the same with the carS. The grey energy for one car is about 50% of it’s lifespans energy cost.

    This house may be cheap to run energy wise, but it took a great amount of energy to produce. And depending on how long and often it is used, it may cost more energy to produce than the energy it saves: “sawing off the branch you’re sitting on”!

  • Jack

    I am a loss, I really am. Either the house is your cup of tea, or it isn’t. Nobody knows ANYTHING about this family, its configuration, and what its needs are now, in the future, and what role the house will play.

    Go tutor a kid or plant a tree; the hot air coming out of these posts are enough to neutralise what’s left of the ozone layer. Sheesh!
    I would live in this house in two shakes of a lamb’s tail and wonder how opinions would change if some of these haters could too? Ugh, I feel tainted in some way by even writing this post. Go feed your cats.

    • Philip

      Thanks Jack. People here seem to know a lot… Wish they would keep it to themselves.

  • Rakhimova Marzhan

    It is a very beautiful and impressive house, but after reading the comments below, I cannot agree that it does not meet all the requirements to be “environmental”.

    If we talk about the design… It is at the highest level, but the functionality and convenience is in doubt. If I was building a house to live permanently in it, I would have made it more convenient and less ambitious. But as the concept of the house is in a spectacular council, an architect has set to the task.

    But if you go back to the issue of the environment, then, in my opinion, it is fundamentally wrong. Because digging so deeply and immersing it by machines and installing a garage, I do not think it will affect well on rostitelnosti in the locality. The idea of functional and modern home is still a utopia, but it is not a bad attempt.

  • Wei Chao Tee

    Hey, amid all the talk, it has a really nice seamless full-height glazing interior look.