Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Pueblo House in Oelde, Germany by Matthias Schmalohr
April 4th, 2012 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Matthias Schmalohr
The virtually ‚shocking‘ modern extension with its red fair-faced concrete and the flat roof opens the normality of living under a saddle-roof. The small estate house from the fifties, the basis of the extension, is not being copied or falsified by using the technical advances of the 21st century, but experiences an independent, modern continuation. Thus inside, at close range to each other, very different worlds of experiences emerge: the significance of great apertures, wide views, multistorey openness in contrast to the fragmentation and narrowness of the past. What makes the ensemble, including a new carport, so fascinating, is the contrast and the interplay of all these influences. Different dates of origin lead, consequently from an architectural point of view, to different results.
From the outside it’s like a model built to full scale. If all buildings were this basic, all those home maintenance suppliers would be doomed to ruin: no more need to clean out the gutters, paint the exterior, or anxiously check that the house is well sealed. There’s not a conventional joint to be seen. On the outside, this Pueblo house consists of nothing but exposed concrete, glass and window frames. Everything omitted here means a reduction of material and maintenance. The most flexible dual use of the site, for the benefit of three generations, is also consistent from an ecological point of view. Over 50 years after the completion of the Aachen cooperative building society’s Type E12 housing estate home, still in a near-original state of preservation, Matthias R Schmalohr sought a contrast that would emphasize the distinctiveness of the two building masses – the existing house and the new extension – linked by a glass corridor. On one side cosy confinement and romantically small spaces, on the other large openings, long vistas and double-height voids in a living space of only 95 square metres.
Although something almost fort-like assures its domestic intimacy, this house is liberating in the sense of Modernism’s old motto of ‘liberated living’. Does it also live up to the images of classic Modernism? The modern interior is dominated by minimalism, limited material and colours, hidden technology and complete or selective views. A floor-to-ceiling sliding door facing the terrace and entrance platform provides views of the south-facing garden and the carport with storage room – also newly built. The dining area, shielded from view, is lit by the large library gallery window, which looks to the east. The toilet on the ground floor, built into an oaken cupboard, continues its dark appearance on the outside wall. At the moment the young family uses two-thirds of the attic, belonging to the grandparents gabled house, as their first floor: a bathroom with a dressing room connected to it, and a room for a child. The parents’ bedroom, also upstairs, is little more than a bunt, comparable to the sleeping accommodations on a steamship from the 1920s. The interior is kept without accessories, and the smooth surfaces of the walls and the furniture meet at the shadow gap.
Archaic and harmonious Interiors of quality often derive their character from contrasts and leaps in time. The quality of the individual elements is decisive for the overall effect. In the urban setting this approach seems more unusual, even though in this location a kind of regular fragmentation rather than a structure dominates. The appearance of the settlement in the small German Westphalian town Oelde is dominated by the use of the steeply pitched roof as the main principle but it is employed in a variety of forms and materials. However, in terms of urban design this principle does not allow the development of a uniform canon. Previously the only extensions to receive planning permission were single-storey buildings with a pitched roof. The naked cube fits more harmoniously into its setting thanks to its red colour that matches the colour of the surrounding roofs.
The external 20-cm-thick concrete shell was poured in sections and internally an 8-cm-thick layer of thermal insulation, PE foil, and a 15-cm-thick leaf of concrete blocks was constructed, the floor slab rests entirely on this inner layer. The façade openings were made with the use of a collapsible formwork which made it possible to cast the window sills with a slight slope. The ‘fifth façade’, directly connected structurally to all the other facades, consists of a densely reinforced concrete ceiling slab with a minimum thickness of 34 cm and a floated internal fall of two to three per cent. The indestructible, archaically untreated natural material concrete allows one to expect that an undisturbed existence can be led here.
Once you understand the pueblo analogy that has informed the house in Oelde, you can start to see it as a new formal idiom in green design: an indestructible natural material (concrete), no squandering of materials for detailing, flexible use of space in the basement and the old attic, densification of land use (this is a three-generation household), and low energy needs. Thanks to the solar collector panels added to the old house and improved thermal insulation of its gabled roof, the existing furnace in the old house now heats both parts of the building without any increase in energy consumption.
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