A person planning a house on a meadow above a subterranean lake from the former glacial period has either nerves of steel or not the faintest idea. This is what happened to the Berlin architect Carlos Zwick when he wanted to construct a summer residence for his family of 8 in his Allgäu homeland.
Project Name: Hinang House
Studio Name: Carlos Zwick Architekten BDA
Location: Sonthofen, Germany
Photography: Tomek Kwiatosz
Project size: 296 m2
Site size: 1400 m2
Completion date: 2012
Building levels: 2
When in 2011, during the construction works, the ground started staggering under the excavator it soon became clear that something was wrong here. A team of geologists brought certainty: a lake from the ice age extending to 18 meters of depth is located under the planned house, 15 meters long and with a consistency of liquid rock sludge. It was a real challenge that caused the architect quite a headache and a building freeze. Today the house which is made of a wooden panel construction is standing well grounded on 24 ductile cast piles.
It was not his true intention to build a house of such size here in his old homeland. To begin with, a project with friends was envisaged who meant to rebuild and occupy the former house from the 40s. Zwick liked the idea of constructing a kind of summer cottage next to it, in order to use as lodging during skiing or summer vacations. The friends pulled out, and the concept changed. Today, in the midst of green clover meadows a modern and urbanized architectural house can be seen which wondrously embeds into the nature by means of the autumnal colors of the constantly transforming corten steel.
In its formal design the house is an affectionate response to the nearby situated hayricks appearing as if someone had placed them higgledy-piggledy into the deep Allgäu meadows. “I really like these cabins, they are a piece of home for me and that is what I wanted to integrate into my design”, says the architect.
The house absorbs the hilly movement of its surrounding. In the massive lower part of the structure, with its natural stone facade from the local Grünten stone pit, one may find the guest apartment, the ski cellar and the garage. Here, Zwick also likes to use the combined kitchen and living room which is oriented towards south with the huge panorama windows and the wooden terrace as music room to which he often adjourns with his brothers and a bottle of wine. “We are playing a lot of old tunes and we do that quite loud!
Out here, nobody is bothered – that is fantastic”, Zwick is swooning. Meanwhile, In the upper part of the house which projects beyond the lower floor and which is all around covered with corten steel, the family members make themselves comfortable. Cooking takes place on the kitchenette measuring eight meters, dinner is taken on the large table and in winter the double-sided glass fireplace is crackling and burning. Living and eating is separated by it but at the same time it connects both areas.
“If the sun shines all day long into the house it becomes comfortably warm. Apart from that the house is heated by means of an air heat pump. Such a pump extracts the thermal energy from the ambient atmosphere”, the landlord is explaining the concept of the low-energy house.
Through the glazed panorama window which stretches out over the complete south side, the house unites with the nature. In front of the house you may find the equally long wooden terrace. “The wide view from here to the Allgäu Alps is unique, time and time again and always different. Unimaginably beautiful and sometimes almost unreal, as picturesque as a painting”, the native Allgäuer is enthusing about it. This is also the first thing that the house’s occupants can see when waking up in the morning.
That is owed to the fact that all bedrooms, the four in the upper and the two in the lower part of the house, open to the expanse of the meadow and mountain panorama. From the generous kitchen and living quarter of the building one can directly get to a spacious corridor where the official main entrance is situated, as well as to the stairs guiding into the basement floor. Here we find the sleeping area of the two huge family dogs, Schröder and Tilda. From here, you may also get to the guest room and the guest bathroom.
An extended corridor leads to the private area of the house. Here, two children’s rooms are located, with identical floor plan and each with a gallery for sleeping with roof light and exclusive view to the Allgäu night sky. In front of the children’s room there are the children’s bathroom and a small home office which is highly preferred as a retreat during the turbulent vacation routine of the family for doing homework either for school or university.
And finally, the corridor ends with the master bedroom where the bathroom and the sleeping area merge openly. Here, like in the entire house, robust and oiled oak boards are arranged. They also cover the free-standing bathtub which is located behind a dividing wall with a sink and mirror. One may take a shower here in a separate area, just alongside another one with toilet and bidet.
From all bathrooms tiled in black and white, the guest bathroom and the kitchen on the house’s north side one will have a free view to the village through long window strips “and also to the small cottage of the beekeeper who has his bee colonies just a little bit further up from the house; to the delight of our youngest son who adores honey”, the architect enthuses.
From outside you one enters the house over a narrow boardwalk on the north side, the so-called summer entrance of the family. In winter, everyone prefers the entrance in the lower part. “After skiing it is very comfortable getting the wet things from the car into the heated basement. There’s nothing like dry and nicely warmed ski boots the next morning”, Zwick chuckles.
At night, it is heavenly calm. In summer, with a widely opened terrace door it is almost like sleeping in the open. You will only hear the tinkling of the cowbells, which occurs as sometimes the cows graze directly next to the house, sometimes further up in the mountains.
The path from the village Hinang with consists of 92 souls up to the house is asphalted provisionally and in the deep of winter with plenty of snow it becomes a real challenge occasionally, particularly because the winter services now and then forget the small path which is about 300 meters long. Then, the Zwicks have no other choice other than to take the shovel into their own hands.
It’s pure recovery for the whole family, both in summer and in winter. Skiing is on the agenda just like hiking and biking, of course. The last one, thanks to modern E-bikes, makes it possible even for untrained metropolitans, to get into the farthest corner of the mountainside, something enjoyed by all.