The idea for the development of the narrowest house in Zagreb stemmed from the planning possibilities for building a narrow semi-detached house abutting onto an existing residential building. Additional spurs to the choice of site were an appealing position in the midst of pedestrian zones and the southern orientation of the long side, facing onto a park. Planning conditions enabled a structure compatible with the volumes of the neighbouring two houses, at a distance of 3 m from the edge of the plot. For this reason the interior width comes to 2.65 m and width of the narrow façade is 3.25 m, which in the opinion of the client is sufficient to accommodate the amenities he wants. The design was based on a split-level concept, developed in agreement with the future user.
The immediate neighbourhood comprises multi-occupancy residential buildings, an elementary school and a small park. The house is designed as the ending of a sequence of two small residential buildings. The existing structures with the new build form the façade of a brief pedestrian street next to the school playground. The wider neighbourhood contains not only the condominium buildings but also a zone of single-occupancy houses. Because of the closeness of the borders of the plot, the brief was looking for a favourable balance between a closed and an open façade, so that the client should not have to feel exposed but yet would have the ability to enjoy views of the surrounding greenery.
Because of the vicinity of public spaces, the client did not want to have a fully glazed façade, and the design thus defined an appropriate proportion of full to glazed which provides a feeling of space and a vision in the interior, also capable of preventing excessive insolation from the southern façade. The installation of a heat pump, good thermal insulation and the use of high quality glass for windows will considerably reduce utility costs. The cost of building was much lower than the prices fetched by flats in the neighbourhood. No basement was designed because of the high groundwater level close to the River Sava. Construction ended in 2023, but as yet the building has been neither exhibited nor featured in print.
To get the most, and yet at the same time to occupy as little area as possible has been a constant preoccupation in the architectural profession, one inherited from the first half of the 20th century. We can see it primarily in the development of approaches to residential spaces, including their finishing. The motto of Charles Eames “we want to make the best for the most for the least” was taken on board by generations of architects who elevated the form of mere living to a high level of cultural housing in minimum-sized living spaces. The current design endeavoured to obtain the best spatial response to the requirements of the client – an art critic who lives alone and writes every day. Partially compensating for the cramped location selected is the orientation to three sides, imparting diversity to the interior spaces and the possibility of views of the greenery of the playing ground to the east, the public park to the south and the yard that occupies western part of the plot. Depending on the season, the weather and his own moods the client can choose one of three positions in which to do his writing. Since the facilities are located vertically, the installation of a small lift was provided for, for the sake of added client convenience. Finishing materials in the interior are exposed concrete (raw and painted) and inbuilt elements of birch plywood. Ceramic floors are laid to tile.
I spend most of my time writing and reading. There are desks in three different positions – I wanted to have several different places for working in with different moods and different views. As well as my laptop, I also sometimes use old Olivetti typewriters. Because of the spatial constraints, I decided it was unnecessary to have a traditional-style living room. At the top there is a winter garden, a place for relaxation and reading, with a terrace.
Dina Vulin Ilekovic, PhD, is a Croatian architect and professor at the Department of Architectural Design at the Faculty of Architecture, University of Zagreb.
Boris Ilekovic is a Croatian architect and associate professor at the School of Design at the Faculty of Architecture, University of Zagreb.
Since their student days they work together and created some thirty built works and hundred or so designs on various scales - from lighting units that have won prizes in Japan to new urban design structures and revitalisations of protected cultural properties of the Republic of Croatia.