Safe House / KWK Promes

© KWK Promes

Architects: KWK Promes
Location: Warsaw,
Collaboration: Marcin Jojko, Łukasz Zadrzyński
Interior design: Magdalena Radałowicz – Zadrzyńska
Project area: 2,500 sqm
Project year: 2004 – 2009
Photographs: Courtesy of KWK Promes

© KWK Promes


The clients’ top priority was to gain the feeling of maximum security in their future house, which determined the building’s outlook and performance.

The house took the form of a cuboid in which parts of the exterior walls are movable.

When the house opens up to the garden, eastern and western side walls move towards the exterior fence creating a courtyard.

© KWK Promes

After crossing the gate one has to wait in this safety zone before being let inside the house. In the same time, there is no risk of children escaping to the street area in an uncontrolled way while playing in the garden.

Movable elements interfering with the site layout

The innovation of this idea consists in the interference of the movable walls with the urban structure of the plot. Consequently, when the house is closed (at night for example) the safe zone is limited to the house’s outline. In the daytime, as a result of the walls opening, it extends to the garden surrounding the house.

elevation 01

New type of building

The sliding walls are not dependent on the form of the building. That is why this patent can be applied to both modern and traditional, single- and multi – storeyed houses covered with roofs of different geometry.

This universal solution we came up with gives a new type of building where not the form but the way of functioning is the most important. The name: „safe house” gains a new meaning now.

© KWK Promes


Accomplishment of this idea required the use of technically complex solutions. The most significant are the sliding walls (both 2,2 m high, 22 and 15 m long), which allow to interfere with the urban structure and determine the safe zone of the plot.

They are not the only mobile elements of the building. Apart from these, there are large shutters (all 2,8 m high, with a width ranging up to 3,5 m, opening up to 180 degrees) and a drawbridge leading to the roof terrace above the swimming pool.

© KWK Promes

The southern elevation is closed by an enormous roll-down gate of 14 and 6 m manufactured by a company normally supplying shipyards and air companies. It is made with white anodized aluminum which makes it possible to function as a movie projection screen.

All the movable elements are based on built-in electronic engines, that guarantee safe operation.

The whole building is a concrete monolith, while it’s mobile parts – for the sake of considerable size – are light steel trusses filled with mineral wool. As a result, the building is perfectly insulated when closed.

The whole house as well as the mobile elements are clad with cement-bonded particleboards – Cetris and waterproof alder plywood fixed to a steel construction and painted with dark wood stain, which resembles the wood widely found on the surrounding houses and barns, and makes it fit well into the rural landscape.

© KWK Promes

… to Organic

Once the house opens, it’s bright and spacious interior merges extensively with the garden.

Wide glazings behind the movable walls let the building acquire energy during the day (winter) or prevent the sun’s heat from going into the house (summer). At night, when the house is closed, the thick outer layer helps the building to accumulate the gained energy. Such a solution together with the hybrid heat system (most of the energy is gained from renewable sources – heat pump and solar systems supported with gas heating) and mechanical ventilation with heat recovery makes the house become an intelligent passive building.

Every day the house acts in a similar way – it wakes up every morning to close up after the dusk. This routine reminds of the processes occurring in nature – the house resembles a plant in its day and night cycle.

Cite: "Safe House / KWK Promes" 15 Jun 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 24 May 2015. <>
  • georg strohmeier

    a manifest of paranoia.

  • aditya

    it’s zombie proof!

  • asdaf

    zombie proof, but not vampire proof…

  • Beppo

    “[...] there is no risk of children escaping to the street [...].”
    OMG…I really hope those poor kids somehow manage to escape one day!

  • fed

    You don’t know Poland.

  • BK

    I might like this house in Iraq or Afghanistan… or Mexico.

    But Poland? Is WWII still going on there?

    • Beppo

      …no BK, no war, it’s called “free market economy”!

      • leon

        There is no such a thing called “free market economy” happening in Poland. I wish it was.

  • skrilax

    The client might have been a bit paranoic, yet still I think the architects have done their job perfectly. it’s intresting how this machine house “moves” and changes its shape, yet still looking nice. good job!

    • BK

      I do agree the architects did an amazing job with the task they were given. And the technological hurdles they overcame were huge. It’s a well thought-out design and quite unique — just seems like it’s design that Osama bin Laden would wish he could have implemented (he might still be alive).