House in the Clouds

Martin Klimecký

84 %


House in the Clouds

Heroltice u Tišnova,
Česká republika

The task was quite simple: to design a quality family home where the atmosphere and decor would be provided by the surrounding natural environment and ever-present views of the distant landscape. This goal significantly influenced the choice of land and the overall approach to construction. A unique view, which the architecture simply frames, was chosen for each room. The result is a house filled with nature’s endless and dynamic transformations.

In accordance with the zoning plan, the house is positioned in the lower part of the site, in an appropriate, functional location that facilitated construction. The house’s layout responds to the sloping terrain, with the majority of the facilities, including the garage and guest suite, located in the basement with access to the street. The ground floor, which is accessed from the basement by a staircase and a lift, is home to an apartment designed in a single, horizontal plane, with direct access to a comfortably proportioned terrace. The configuration of the house allows for unobstructed views of the landscape from the home’s social spaces, as well as from the bedroom wing. The majority of the site has retained its natural incline; terraces have been set into the slope only to allow access to the garage and the main living space. The landscaping is informed by the area’s natural vegetation and includes ornamental and fruit trees, shrubs and herbs. Most of the relatively large plot will be maintained as a meadow.

The building’s mass consists of a simple, flat prism, set into the terrain and orientated in relation to its surroundings. So that the building follows the natural relief wall and does not protrude unnecessarily, most of the basement has been sunk into the slope and the roof above the ground floor is flat. The window openings in the living area are inserted behind 1.5 meter-deep loggias, which add intimacy to the interior and allow direct access to the outdoors from every room in the living space.

The house has a reinforced concrete load-bearing structure, combined with structural and infill masonry, complemented by steel columns in the living space. The building is designed as a single unit with the entire supporting structure inside, under thermal insulation. The supporting structure is acknowledged and helps to define the interior of the house. The façade combines contact insulation with smooth sanded plaster and a core layer with a surface of exposed reinforced concrete moniers.

Glazing, in a combination of fixed, opening and sliding fields, is frameless and always corresponds to the height of the room, without window sills or lintels. The roof of the house is flat, with an aggregate surface combined with extensive vegetation.

The interior features exposed reinforced concrete on the ceilings and stairs. Most of the walls are plastered. The floors are made of hand-smoothed cement screeds. All of the bathroom surfaces (walls, floor, ceiling) are covered in glass mosaic. Interior doors span the full height of the room and feature hidden frames. The doors of the built-in cabinets have been similarly constructed and, like the doors, are made of oak veneer, intentionally left in its natural texture and colour. The kitchen features white lacquered surfaces.

A ground-water heat pump is the primary source of energy for heating and cooling. It draws its energy from a trio of 130 meter-deep wells. The house is heated by underfloor heating and cooled through activation of the concrete core located in the reinforced concrete ceiling plate. The house has been designed as an intelligent home; an electronic system controls all the technology in the house and facilitates on-site or remote control.

Questions for Martin Klimecký

How do you feel about building houses in which all of the media, the door controls, lights, shading and other automated elements are controlled remotely?

When such technologies aren’t used as an end in themselves, then they’re probably justified. Perhaps it’s a bit like cars; if today’s houses are to measure up, they are so complex that they can’t do without computers.

The house in Heroltice is large and it would be wrong to only start heating it when it is cold, or cooling it when it is hot - it’s good that the computer thinks about this for you. The house is trying to take advantage of reinforced concrete, i.e., its large accumulation of inertia, and so it needs to think ahead. Computers are better at this than humans.

On the other hand, nothing we’ve used here is so very unusual. These same technologies are already quite common in today’s civil engineering, they’ve just been “reduced” to the scale of a family home. What is specific here, however, is the fact that all of the technology is invisible - and also inaudible - and this was important for the client. For example, the house has virtually no ventilation technology and is entirely without air conditioning in the classic sense. This is only possible because of computers.

Do buildings like this lose their human dimension? From an architect's point of view, is this the right path to the future when it comes to sustainability?

I am definitely interested in the topic of sustainability and waste. In the case of Heroltice, it’s technology that has allowed the house to be quite modest. Its primary entry consumption is akin to that of a large apartment, rather than a large family home.

I'm certainly not an uncritical supporter of anything new; I was actually rather conservative and careful during the design process. Sometimes I even reigned in the builder’s and electrical designer’s ideas.

Do you and the client expect a return on investment in the heat pump? How is it currently going economically?

Of course, the decision about the energy source was planned with a calculator in hand. The investor was interested in hard data. According to the calculations, the return on investment in the heat pump was based on geothermal drilling for less than ten years. It was very helpful that this source also allows the house to be cooled at minimal cost. Still, it will take some time to see how it actually turns out. The construction is new and it is still too early to evaluate.


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