by Anmol AhujaOct 21, 2021
Vitruvian principles, though regarded timeless in architectural language, theory, and application, are a vastly interesting inspiration to take for architecture in a contemporary context. Needless to say, this is especially true since modern architecture operates on a completely different set of constraints; wherein Vitruvian ideals remain more an object of academic research, or a rather subconsciously adapted set of principles that seep into design via curricula. However, it is their interpretation in this structure by Czech Republic-based Atelier Štěpán that comes across as impressive. In terms of architectural communication, what may be described as a courtyard and an outwardly sloping roof with a circular orifice on top assumes definitively interesting proportions when cited to be inspired from the Greek Displuvatium typology of atria. Spatially, this elevates the house from a ‘machine’ to an ‘organ’ for comfort and well being.
Located conveniently near the city’s historical centre, while also being flanked by large parklands that are believed to influence microclimate, the project bears “fragile” connections with numerous commercial and educational centres, along with other cultural hubs in the Nový Jičín. Interestingly, and in accordance with a personal hypothesis delving into how most innovation in modern residential design stems from a sense of constraint pertaining to urban morphology or the general living condition, the large orificial roof and several other ocular openings in the house are a response to the client’s brief and wish to live “largely in open air”. The brief, while also proving to be challenging since given a relatively small plot and complex town planning regulations, paved the way for the defining element of the Internal Landscape Villa. “I wanted to try and create an inner disposition in which people can move naturally, where they can swim like a fish in the water. The kind of relaxed living where you subconsciously anticipate where everything is. The natural flow of the daylight is most important”, states Marek Jan Štěpán, founder and principal architect at Atelier Štěpán.
Apart from lending an impeccable natural context to draw from, the site also features a gently sloping terrain which the house’s design utilises to its benefit. The villa’s basal slabs are thus horizontally divided into three different platforms: the entrance at the street level, the main living platform set a little less than a full storey’s height above that, and the external atrium, further set at half a metre above the main living platform. The entrance platform is nearly fully done in concrete and contains utility rooms. The main living platform, as its name would describe, comprises other social areas and living/resting spaces, constructed with hints of timber, orthogonal to each other. Both these areas trickle into a central grassy atrium that serves as the inner core, the nucleus of the house. A sauna with a small plunge pool, lined along a similar circular outline, closes the atrium, acting as a divider between the atrium and the street.
“The residence in Nový Jičín is a variation on a classical Greek atrium house, specifically Atrium Displuviatum, which means atrium without eaves/gutters as described by Vitruvius in his Ten Books on Architecture. It is an atrium with no columns and the rainwater is directed away from the atrium”, explains Štěpán on his inspiration for planning the villa as an inward looking residential landscape for introverted living. Among the interior spaces, the most significant areas of the villa in terms of a traditional spatial hierarchy are “compositionally emphasised”. Similar to the circular opening atop the courtyard, a large circular skylight above the dining area dramatises the space, originally adorned in timber and hints of concrete. Similar openings also light up distinct areas of the house, including the living area and the stairwells, activating them with an almost stage-like drama that plays beautifully off the exposed concrete, particularly. Additionally, the bedroom is artfully treated with a large, romanticised motif of Lysá Hora, a peak in the Czech Republic, spanning an entire wall of the bedroom in teal.
Apart from the thoughtful conceptual planning and response to the terrain of the site leading to a natural subdivision of levels in the villa design, a subtly balanced material palette comprised mostly of concrete and timber underlines the villa’s interior design. The architects describe this camaraderie between the two materials rather simply, stating that “the bottom is made of concrete; the top from timber”. Structurally as well as cosmetically, timber proves to be a composite addition to the house in the form of cross laminated sections and cladding in locust timber. All the fenestrations in the villa are triple glazed units framed in aluminium. Furthermore, the interior floors are finished in unpolished concrete or oak, lending a richness to the interior palette, a step forward in the pursuit for Hygge. The outside terrace consists of locust boards and a grassed area, resulting in an extension of convivial spaces in the home, beyond the eponymous central.
Name: Internal Landscape Villa
Location: Janáčkovy sady, Nový Jičín, Czech Republic
Architects: Atelier Štěpán
Principal Architect: Marek Jan Štěpán
Design Team: František Brychta, Lukáš Svoboda, Tomáš Jurák, Hana Arletová, Hana Myšková
Built-up Area: 330 m²
Usable Floor Area: 351 m²
Plot Size: 505 m²
Contractor: Tomáš STRAUB