If this is any indication of contemporary Austrian architecture, sign me up for a visit, please. That’s pretty much what I said in a Q&A to Judith Benzer, the architect behind this awe-inspiring design.
Consider this summer house, a twist on the farm house (or, as the case may be, wine house) archetype in Oberbergen, Austria. Literally designed as a client’s summer house, by Austria-based Judith Benzer Architektur the residential areas are located upstairs, while the downstairs contains rooms for wine storage and production. The building takes its design cue from the Kellerstöckel (or wine house) typical of the southern Burgenland region, according to the architect.
The materials were consciously employed in an untreated, undisguised state. The ground floor and second storey were built with wood. It’s complemented by exposed concrete and steel materials. The result is a true contemporary rustic, kept true by its downright staid vernacular.
Many people commenting online on the project desire more windows. Since this is a summer house, did you deliberately place the windows for passive light, not to make it too bright nor too dark inside?
I tried to capture the fabulous views of the countryside through the windows and bring them into the house. For example, the horizontal window in the western façade frames the view of a beautiful neighbouring farm, which lies flat and elongated in the landscape. I also set windows at the end of all paths that result from the development and functions in the house. So the windows were set very specifically, while it was important to not oversize them. It was very important for the client to be able to keep the air in the house as cool as possible.
What’s your statement on the austere decor? There appears to be a heavy Bauhaus influence.
The design and especially the form are based on the local archetype of the wine house. These typical southern Burgenland wine houses have pitched roofs, a cellar, which is accessible only via the outer area and are dug into the earth to keep the climate for wine production consistent. The aboveground rooms are for residential use.
The materials used are uncovered and untreated, as an outbuilding in my opinion doesn´t need any whitewash. Wood as a warm material contrasts with concrete and steel to form a balance between cosy and raw or functional.
The climate is very hot in southern Burgenland in summer and autumn. Therefore a shading of the windows was absolutely necessary. The shutters on the south-western façade are also a function of shadowing porches in open position. In the uninhabited months the closed shutters are flush with the façade and the house, as a sharp-edged cubic, forms a sculptural mantle and stands unobtrusively in the landscape.
What can you tell us about the clients? It’s not everyone who could live in something so austere.
The clients, a couple in their sixties, will retire soon and wanted this house as their future second home. He is a doctor, she is a political scientist. They were both open for a new interpretations of a traditional archetype. Their new home should be a residential building and an outbuilding for agricultural use, as they want to grow and produce wine in very small quantities from grapes grown in their vineyard.
This post originally ran in Hong Kong-based Perspective Magazine.