Architects: Martenson and Nagel Theissen Architecture
Location: Tübingen, Germany
Client: Katrin Martenson and Dominik Bless-Martenson
Project Year: 2010
Project Area: 278 sqm
Photographs: Brigida González
Site and commission
This 365 sqm site is located in Tübingen; on a south-facing slope with a view over the city and of Tübingen castle. The 1960s development plan stipulates a specific position for the house on the site as well as “insertion into the surroundings” according to §34 of the Federal Building Code.
The client commissioned the design of a family home that would provide passively heated living space for two adults and four children. Use of energy efficient passive house technology, natural application of materials and prudent use of the resources at hand, make the building sustainable. The potential adaptation of the house to the family’s living situation was an important aspect thereof.
The question is, what is “good” living space? What defines it and what does one really need? These issues guided us in our approach to the layout of the house, which has been efficiently designed to optimally deliver maximum use of space, functionality and flexibility. We strove to create outstanding spatial quality using a minimum of materials. Imaginative overlapping of spatial areas and uses were designed to give the inhabitants a feeling of spaciousness, manifold atmospheres and various realms of possibility—despite minimised living area.
The top and roof level of the house has been clad in a “southwester hat” of roof sheeting to provide protection from wind and weather. Similar to exterior “seams”, the roof sheeting meets to form ridges at the edges, these have been welded together to stand out from the water surface. This interpretation of the ridge seal accentuates the envelope of this membrane-covered warm roof. A drainage edge on the eaves guides away the rainwater that falls on the roof cladding, just like the brim of a hat.
Prefabrication, Structure, Surface Treatment
The structural physical demands on passive houses, their short construction period as well as sustainability considerations, all culminated in a decision to build this house in solid wood, optimally using the potentials of prefabrication. The whole building consists of 136 elements, which were fabricated with notches for carpentry and joinery as well as with drill holes and grooves for installation of the electrics.
Wood is the main material to be used consistently throughout the structure and interior surfaces; as a renewable raw material it was chosen not least for its favourable energy balance. To keep costs down, the wooden surfaces in the common rooms have been designed in “refined shell construction.” The industrial surface of these cross-layered wooden elements have been sanded down, bucked and soaped to preserve the light character of the wood.
One can become two Sustainable and flexible; the house can be split into two living units with separate entrances without much effort should the family situation change to require that. The total area of the house is 138 sqm; one unit would measure 81 sqm and the other 57 sqm. In the warmer months of the year, this living space can be extended by the 12 sqm balcony and the 23 square-metre forecourt.
Ground floor Climate Zone The staggered main living space creates various room heights which zone the ground floor and automatically create different climate zones in winter. Cold outside air remains trapped in the lower entrance area while moderate temperatures prevail in the kitchen-living room and the sitting room higher up is warmest.