Villa S is a cast in-situ concrete house, dramatically sited on a hillside above Schriesheim, in Baden-Württemberg, in southwest Germany. From its elevated position, the building offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside: to the south, the Black Forest; to the west, the Palatinate and the Rhine Valley; to the east, the Odenwald mountain range; and in the foreground, on a neighbouring hillside, the ruins of Strahlenburg Castle, originally built in 1295. Within this setting, the project presents itself as an elemental two-tier structure.

The white concrete has been well honed, the culmination of years of perfecting its use, perfecting the right mix, the quality of shuttering and the waxes applied, to ensure a smooth matt finish. Here it is used within a massing composition that generates a strong sense of place, rooting the villa in its culture and topography.

The lower level is articulated as a heavy concrete cuboid, embedded in the landscape - an extension of the earth, almost. The walls are Romanesque in stature, which is the result of the double concrete wall system, the solidity and density of which is strikingly disseminated at the front of the house, courtesy of the deeply set glazing. Structurally, the internal wall is loadbearing, allowing the outer wall to function as formidable facing.

Within the lower block, the bedrooms and bathrooms are safely cocooned. Above, the pavilion like configuration engages with the landscape and the elements. The sliding glass doors and the same flooring specification, Brazilian slate tiling, used inside and out, deliver a seamless connection between the living room and terrace, the combined area measuring 135sqm.

The downstairs space is larger, measuring 175sqm. This comprises two south-facing bedrooms, with floor to ceiling glazing, both having en-suites bathrooms; a central area, which is flexible in its usage, with two additional bedrooms being easily accommodated within the grid like structure; and towards the rear, a utility and washroom, a general storage space, and a dedicated room for the building’s electrics and heating system.

From a volumetric standpoint, the ceiling heights - 2.6m for the lower level and 2.8m for the ground floor - create a series of generous and well-proportioned rooms, the main social space, in particular, emanating a real sense of grandeur. And as a way of harmonizing this upper volume with the lower block's strong horizontal presence, the roof is articulated as an assured, well-defined plane: on on the south side, it cantilevers 2.6m beyond the living area; and on the north side, it emphatically defines the main entranceway, with a seemingly gravity defying aperture, measuring 6.25m x 5m x 0.65m.

Throughout the scheme, the Meranti doors and window frames provide a strong aesthetic counterpoint to the white concrete while elegantly complementing the slate flooring, and the opaque matt glass panels that form part of the building’s fenestration. This holistic approach to detailing is also evident in the bespoke light fitting that is used throughout the scheme.

The project required a lamp that could deliver both internal and external coverage; work within the structural parameters of its cast in-situ concrete ceilings; and be able to complement its exacting, pared-back aesthetic. Existing fittings were researched, but there wasn't any one design that could meet these three requirements, hence the development of the villa’s very own luminaire, measuring 12cm x12cm x8cm.

The outer casing is milled from a solid block of aluminium. Internally, the fitting comprises 49 1W LEDs mounted on a platina plate, combined with a highly polished stainless steel reflector and a specially satinized plexi-glass cover. The finished product is a low energy, high performance lamp that delivers an even spread of emitted light. Furthermore, the unit sits perfectly flush when recessed; there is no external mounting or trim, so preserving the ascetic clarity of the concrete ceilings.

The villa's asymmetric plan orchestrates the lighting layout, hence the spacing of the three lamps along the south-facing cantilever, the one offset from the middle aligning with the building’s long axis. Save for this subtle lighting detail, the south façade is symmetrical which robustly counterbalances the asymmetrical arrangement that organises the north elevation.

The discourse between the north and south facades parallels the dialogue between the heavy mass of the lower level and the lighter structure above, the former generating a connection with the earth, the latter a connection with the sky. This is architecture exploring the poetic and communicative potential of tectonic construction. The result is a meticulously crafted building, well equipped to endure the test of time.

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