Designed by Austrian architecture studio Propeller Z, this imposing architectural structure in Vienna displays a terraced profile that contours the skies. Acting as a family home, the “Plak ” residence has gardens and terraces that keep the inhabitants strongly connected to nature. Three characteristics of the site led to the structure’s shape and size – steep, long and narrow. In order to have the best views and space arrangement, the architecture had to become part of the terrain – this resulted in cantilevered and carved volumes.
The entry on the ground floor welcomes family and guest with a sculptural staircase leading up to one of the bedrooms and the office space. A mirrored wall reflects the elegant wooden shapes of the staircase and everyone can enjoy its unusual geometric shape while heading upstairs. The first floor home office is flooded with natural light and encapsulated in a part glass part bookshelf division. The upper floors include living and entertaining zones and the modern kitchen – all of these benefit from natural light and splendid views. Terraces with sliding glass doors open up the interiors to the outdoor space, while dark-framed windows capture views of the neighborhood and the passing of seasons.
Energy during the construction process was saved by using FSC-certified glulam timber instead of steel to create the building’s distinctive wavy roof, while the store’s external walls use hemclad, a highly innovative insulator made from hemp, which, like all plants, absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere as it grows. An 80,000 litre water tank below ground provides water for the store’s toilets and waters the site’s green wall’, which provides natural insulation, acts as an all-natural pollution filter near the car park, and helps to encourage biodiversity. The result is a building that uses a fraction of the energy of structures of a similar size, and is still very popular with local shoppers.
What is new and exciting now can quickly begin to look tired and out of fashion, so the best buildings don’t just consider what will be interesting to look at now, but also how it might look to people in five, fifty or even a hundred years’ time. 2013’s hotly contested RIBA Stirling Prize went to Witherford Watson Mann Architects for their work on Astley Castle, Warwickshire. In what RIBA Past President Stephen Hodder has described as an extreme retrofit, the project essentially saw a new building inserted subtly into the heart of the old, with a new, two storey residence now hidden within the sandstone walls of the ruins of this medieval castle, to be used as a holiday home for up to eight guests