The holiday home or summer-house by definition, is a building constructed with a strictly defined personality. For the temporary inhabitant, it is to provide a sense of escape without abandonment, and leisure without effort. It’s very existence is to promote feelings and moods not experienced in our everyday lives. A temporary euphoria squeezed between four walls for a period of the users choosing. It is a social engineer’s architectural dream.
This idea of temporary elation has existed for centuries. But the concept exploded with the onset of modernism and the twentieth century. A newly emerging middle class sought escapism from the polluted cities while still enjoying the comforts of their newly industrialized homes. A Modernist belief that experience was shaped through design spearheaded the mass-production of seasonal dwelling. Le Corbusier described buildings as “machines for living” and architecture was bent to supply the petit bourgeoisie’s need for leisure and relaxation. Buildings were simplified, historical references and ornament were removed in favor of promoting the beauty of modern materials and construction. Concrete and its featureless character became the material of choice in the construction of buildings throughout Europe and North America. Their homogenous appearance celebrated by Brutalist architects but condemned by post-modernists for their flagrant disregard towards the social, historic, and architectural environment of its surroundings.
Today, this form of design is considered to be archaic in its principles. Concrete is seen to be aesthetically vacuous, and is used structurally rather than visually. Instead, glass facades and organic materials are a building’s ornaments. But a team of architects in Austria have resurrected the ideological trappings of modernist thinkers to create a unique and eerily beautiful interpretation of the holiday villa. Set on lake Millstatter See in Austria, this four-story villa is an ode to the idealism of the holiday homes of old, but simultaneously sits in the avant-garde.
Much of the design was adapted from the hotel that stood previously on the original plot, and can be seen in the bold and unrelenting expanses of concrete. But rather than mask the commanding stretches of grey matter, the team have embraced and adorned the blank walls to become a key part of the building’s persona. The vast expanses complemented by materials that not only enhance the concrete’s authority, but also mimic it in character. Pale, smooth furniture occupy the inside, while white decking and exposed brick-work dominate the outside. The effect of which, can feel arresting at first, but develops a strange allure when looked at up close.
The building is a prime example of the brutal, unrelenting style of design from the 1950s, but the overhaul of ideas has transformed it into a testament to the contemporary. The fluid transition between interior and exterior, coupled with the large openings throughout the build, allow nature to flow through the cold interior, giving it a warm and organic feel. While the geometric shapes of the building draw imposing silhouettes on the lake and the surrounding countryside.
The minimal material concept; structural concrete in combination with white painted wood and metal surfaces, lends the building a monolithic character. But the upper floors of the building have an intimate, personal feel that doesn’t compromise the need for personal space.
It’s a building that screams arrogance and in places can feel a little soulless. But the sheer audacity of its form juxtaposed with its purpose as a leisure facility, offers an intriguing concept that hasn’t been seen since Modernism dared to challenge the purpose of design and the human condition. By Matthew Hussey