20.2.2020

uF Haus

At the first glance, this small property in a suburban area of single-family homes and strict building regulations offers nothing special – except the design antics of some adjoining houses.

The volumes and their position result from the options left by the building regulations. The interior is an answer to the local circumstances and, in spite of the small volume and the confined situation, offers outlooks in all directions, spacious openings and still the desired privacy. Following the rules of modernism only three materials were used in their primordial forms: concrete, wood and steel – to some extent an antitheses to the current practice in construction, where, among other things, the vast use of materials and products tend to escalate.

You called this project “unfinished house” in your last email. Is this what UF Haus means? Why is it unfinished?

The processing of the concrete surface was supposed to be made with a hammer drill, but a neighbour was afraid that it would be very loud, and made a complaint at the building administration. Because of this reason, the concrete processing was not allowed. The surface was left untreated. As we had assumed that the concrete would be processed, no effort was made in the formwork and there was no classification of the panels and chip locks etc.  However, the original concept of the fine and high-quality surface inside and the coarse surface outside is nevertheless apparent.This is a long and detailed story that ended in court.

Called UF Haus – an abbreviation of unfinished – all the materials used for the project were left in their raw state. The house is called the Unfinished house, because due to possible noise problems with neighbours (The aim and part of the concept of the project was to soften the surface of the facade and cover the raw and rough concrete), we could not make the last layer over the raw and rough concrete. So then the house was left unfinished.
Actually, We did not finish the last layer to avoid problems with the administration and the neighbours. In the end, in a fatalistic and ironic way we decided to call it the Unfinished house, as a wink of the eye.

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The rest of the materials, wood, steel and the concrete inside were finely finished.

Could you go into more detail about how the building regulations informed the design, and where?

Two stories where allowed to be built. On the south side of the property there was a building limit line (in german “Baulinie”) that could not be exceeded. Moreover, 3m to the neighbours properties had to be kept on every side of the perimeter.For this reason the position, footprint and volume of the house was fix.

The studio focused on three materials for the whole house – could you point out where steel was used?

….at the windows, plumbing fixtures, door fittings

These material choices came from an “antithesis” to construction – did SoHo aim for a minimalist approach? I find this quite interesting and would love to be able to get more of your thoughts on this point.

We were interested in creating a harmonious spatial atmosphere with the use of natural and few building materials and handling light and shadow. This requires a lot of technical know-how and skills from the executing companies. In Germany, building development is based more and more on the assembly of industrially produced semi-finished parts and because of that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find good craftsmen. This process is accelerating, supported by the fact that clients prefer easy-care materials that still look the same in 100 years. However, we try to sensitize and raise awarenes over the clients/builders for traditional ideas and solutions, in which the materials are not treated, they only get a patina and they age over time.

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Finally, the garden outside (which is so lovely and peaceful!) – are they a reflection of the neighbouring tree landscape?

As you can see on the aerial view, the neighbourhood is actually densely populated with single-family houses. Our goal was to include the surrounding gardens on the small property to create outdoor spaces with different qualities. So there is a forecourt in front of the garage, an “entrance yard” with a fountain hanging from the existing wall to the neighbour. The patio on the first floor on the northwest side of the house and the garden in the south with low trees which, like japanese gardens, use the high trees of the neighbouring gardens as background and visual completion.

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