Amidst the vines
Seen from afar, House T looks like a small landmark on the horizon. It makes a simple and quite unobtrusive impression. A closer look, however, reveals that it was designed with great care and love of detail. An old winegrower’s cottage on top of a 400-year old vaulted cellar served as a starting point for the property in question. The cottage was rebuilt and used as a wine press house from time to time, but in recent years, it had stood empty. Now it has found a new function at last.
Characteristic for House T, which is perched on a hill amidst the undulating vineyards between Gamlitz and Leutschach, is its dual structure. It consists of a singlestorey living area with a green roof built slightly into the slope, and a two-storey dwelling with a copper gable roof. Access to the house is on the rear side of the living area, which comprises a kitchen and a lounge, and – somewhat tucked away – a smaller bathroom and toilet for guests, and access to the garage. In this place, you feel as if nature simply lows through the loor-to-ceiling glazed walls. The glass forms just a thin barrier between inside and outside, inviting you to relax and daydream while absorbing the enchanting views of the surrounding countryside. Since there are practically no neighbours nearby, privacy is guaranteed despite the property’s spatial openness and extensive glazing.
Overlooking the vineyard, the spacious lounge features an especially designed kitchen concealed behind folding doors, which only makes an appearance when in use. The same applies to the shelves. All daily commodities are cleared out of sight in the wink of an eye, leaving you enveloped and captured by the purity and simplicity of the space. Special attention was also paid to protecting the glazed surfaces from the sun: the exterior blinds were fitted with about a metre’s clearance from the glazing. When you let them down in the evening and switch on the light-band between the blinds and glass, the boundary between inside and outside disappears again, making the interior space appear even larger.
The character of the two-storey dwelling is closed and intimate. Here, the solid insulating concrete walls demarcate the inside from the outside distinctly. Glowing discreetly in a warm hue of brown, the concrete conveys a feeling of cosiness, comfort and privacy. In this area, architect Ulrike Tinnacher plays purposefully with views of the surrounding countryside framed by the oak wood windows, which are lush-mounted on the inside. It almost seems as if landscape paintings were hanging on the walls. An atmosphere of intimacy prevails here, quite in pleasant contrast to the openness of the living area.
What had been most important in her choice of materials, says the architect, were natural surfaces that would be allowed to mature and change their character over time. A charming analogy to the vineyard surrounding the winegrower’s cottage and the distinctive, yet gentle hills of the local countryside that changes its character with the seasons. The colour of the house, too, which is reminiscent of a vine, appears to make it submit to nature. It cannot, and does not want to compete with the intensive green of summer and the overwhelming autumn colours of Southern Styria.
The ground plan of House T is lexibly organised to a certain extent. In order to offer elderly occupants barrier-free living on the ground floor, part of the space can be sectioned of with a sliding door to provide an additional bedroom. In that case, it will not be necessary to access the bedroom and bathroom area upstairs. Also, the present utility area on the ground floor can be used as a bathroom.
The property owners expressed their wish to co-operate with local craftsmen, which presented a challenge to the building company and the architect, since no party had any experience with handling insulating concrete. Accordingly, a whole array of samples and specimen walls were needed to achieve the desired results.
The young architect describes her architectural expression as follows: ‘It is a language that attempts to ind careful answers to functional questions by taking into account existing buildings, the landscape and use of natural and local materials. As timeless and consequent as possible.’ House T reflects this approach in its manifestation and interpretation. Moreover, the architect’s very first major project coincided with her work on her diploma paper, which is a remarkable achievement. Walking through House T, you readily acknowledge that everything is designed with sensitivity, accuracy and precision. No detail was left to chance, and none forgotten. Every aspect of her concept is coherent and lovingly thought out.
- Anne Martischnig