Monumentality and Intimacy, Solidity and Transparency
In a residential project conceived from scratch, the choice of the location, the neighborhood within the city, how it is publicly represented in the form of its external elevations and the client’s private world all become an expression of the client’s identity, intentions and social status.
The owners of Villa B in Munich chose to settle along the banks of the River Isar that runs through the city, on the edge of the park alongside the river, in a prestigious district of detached villas and white stucco buildings cut off on their lots by fenced-in private gardens. The client expressed an immediate desire to subvert some of the rules of accommodation that govern the relationship with the surrounding backdrop: an absence of walls between the private property and the street, a volume of pure and honest material expression, presenting a monumental image towards the street while being informal and open towards the river. They wanted their home to be a private expression of monumentality.
The designers at Powerhouse Company were able to channel the owners’ wishes along a path of refined and cultured suggestions, associating Villa B with the most authoritative and sought-after points of reference for residential architecture in terms of materials, internal distribution and its relationship with nature. Marcel Breuer’s Hooper House II was one of the main points of reference, with its use of natural stone for the façade alongside large, abstract openings: in this house surrounded by nature, the walls made of rough, dark stone blocks envelop the residence’s interior and exterior spaces, broken up solely by large linear, squared-off openings. The feeling of solidity and materiality borrowed from Breuer’s work suggests the idea of a house built out of a solid material, one that is closed and vertical towards the street yet open and horizontal on the garden side. The proposal of the palette of outdoor materials was consequently limited to brass, glass, bronze and enormous slabs of Armani marble from Spain, which is brown with thin white veins.
Towards the street, the house rises as an extraordinarily compact yet monumental and imposing volume, structured in vertical stone slabs with brass lining. This façade is entirely closed, except for the solid patinated brass entrance doors and four marble panels on the first floor. These panels are motorized and can be opened, unveiling a singular large window that provides daylight to the corridor on the first floor. Enhancing its monumentality, the volume gradually slopes down towards its center at the upper end of the house, and towards the corners with three marble-clad steps. The almost monolithic appearance of the public front gradually dissolves towards the garden, broken up by large glazed openings and a completely horizontal evolution consisting of transparent surfaces and opaque marble bands. Despite profoundly different spatial concepts conditioning their external appearance, Adolf Loos’ and Mies van der Rohe’s residences influenced the design approach to internal distribution. In the Loos house, interior space is conceived as a tailor-made suit for the person who lives there, remaining inscrutable from its exterior configuration, devoid of any form of ornament and blocking any introspection from public space into the private space.
Entering Villa B from the street, its organization is typically Loosian: a large entrance with a monumental spiral staircase connects all levels of the house and the secondary functions are symmetrically distributed on both sides. The home’s lounges are located behind the entrance hall. Miesian essentiality and transparency guided the design and division of the spaces towards the garden. Past the entrance, the floorplan opens into a series of glassed-in rooms that extend asymmetrically towards the garden; without visual interruption, space flows freely from one room to the next. The closure towards the street and opening onto nature are reiterated on the first floor, where a corridor extends along the public façade and the bedrooms look out over the garden through large windows.
The second floor houses the swimming pool and the gym, with spectacular views over the river and the park; here the reflections of the water mix with the colors of the marble slabs to create an abstract, immaterial space, while the large glazed areas underline continuity between inside and outside. In the basement, the house’s severe and rigid forms give way to soft, sinuous lines and surfaces carved out of wood and natural stone to create a dynamic entrance hall - a rotunda - for motorized access. The impenetrability and monumentality of the street-facing façade are in themselves a shield for privacy. The house is freely and completely visible from the public space, while at the same time ensuring maximum privacy for its interior spaces.
Moving towards the river, to reassert the intimate and open relationship between interior and nature, the garden is landscaped to be a lush reserve of trees and bushes. Villa B combines the robustness of a classic terraced house, the elegance and openness of a modernist bungalow, the monumentality of major urban architecture with the intimacy of refined interiors, the inscrutability of its public front and the total transparency of its private façade, the solidity of its marble and the evanescence of glass. All of these contrasts and dichotomies celebrate this architectural expression of space and its devotion to the tactility and celebration of natural materials.
Location: Munich, Germany - Completion Date: 2017 - Architecture and Landscape Design:
Powerhouse Company - Partner in Charge: Nanne de Ru, Sander Apperlo - Project Team: Sander Apperlo,
Nanne de Ru, Donna van Milligen Bielke, Tobias Tonch, Franca Houg, Marco Overwijk, Amber Peters, Paul Valeanu
Interior Design: Studio Liaigre - Light Design: Isometrix Lighting and Design - Local Project Management:
m3 Bauprojektmanagement - Structural: Seeberger Friedl Planungsgesellschaft - MEP: Ingenieur Consult ddk
Building Physics & Fire Safety: Müller-BBM
Text by Caterina Testa
All images courtesy of Powerhouse Company