Over the course of several years and on many travels, the clients – a young couple with a keen interest in architecture – had formed specific ideas and mental images of what their home was to be like. Light in the form of daylight and artificial lighting played a central role in their considerations. Specifics were provided for the room plan, the exact relationship of rooms, the view, even a floor plan concept was produced – all infused with particular ideas in mind regarding the effects of daylight and artificial lighting both inside the home and in outdoor areas. The light in their vision became the fourth dimension of architecture. To help the process, the clients had compiled several hundreds of highly atmospheric photos and detailed descriptions of how day-to-day situations in their future home were to be experienced. Rather than a prestigious character, the idea was to follow the leitmotif of a modern, relaxed and unpretentious bungalow in the country. After a long and intensive search, they eventually found a property in an exposed position that met all the requirements in terms of sunlight and stunning view.
What was missing to start up the project was an architectural concept that would unify these details and requirements in a single design and forge a link to the grounds they had found.
In search for the right architect, it was the report on architectural firm Heiderich Architekten presented on German TV channel WDR to mark the Day of Architecture 2009 along with an afternoon in the firm’s premises in Lünen that made the team around Martin Heiderich a favourite for the task at hand. Even the initial talks showed a love of detail both on the part of the architect and the clients that would make for intensive interaction and a dynamic exchange throughout the project with many hours spent discussing details.
It proved a great convenience here that Martin Heiderich, armed with some 1,000 study designs, had gathered extensive experience while working under Prof. Bofinger at the University of Dortmund in pinpointing the intentions of a design and together with the originator develop these into a coherent building without taking the lead himself or questioning the concept in principle. Design in the team, but without compromises.
The result of this collaboration is a highly individual building concept which reflects all parties involved. An additive structural composition set on a stone foundation with a folded champagne-coloured metal plate that enfolds a semitransparent wooden cuboid and balances above the glass-clad living area.
Further planning was easy as most decisions consistently followed this concept. The strictly formalistic rules of the structural composition and the penchant for carefully selected materials and internals remind of buildings from the 60s and the early 70s. The main materials boil down to oak, brick, greywacke and aluminium. Much was allowed in terms of colours, except for one – grey.
The entrance area leads off to the left and right to a basement substitute and utility room on the one side and, on the other, to the work area. The office has its own open-air section in the passage from the driveway through to the garden. Following straight ahead from the entrance are the kitchen and the living and dining area as a fluent room with stairs leading to the upper floor positioned as a zoning element by day and a light sculpture by night. The upstairs boasts a bedroom with phenomenal view of the Ruhr area, a dressing room and a spacious bathroom.
The grounds include terraces for different times of day and seasons and dovetail the building with the property. Large sliding doors remove the separation of interior and exterior, a roofed sitting area outside complements the room plan. A natural pool right outside the living area features oak timber decking.
The bricks for the ground floor come from the Münsterland and were chosen for their brown tone and minute golden inclusions as a result of the firing process. The windows are made of oak with an aluminium frame on the outside in the anodically oxidised shade C34. The aluminium cladding of the upper floor in the anodically oxidised shade C32 is divided into grid segments of 1.75m. The wooden panelling of the upper floor is made of thermally treated poplar. The outside facilities are defined by simple, natural-finish concrete surfaces and a basic horizontal design.
Floors and selected furniture are of cured German oak design. The greywacke for all heavily used floor and wall surfaces in the entrance section and in wet areas hails from the nearby Oberbergisches Land. Other built-in components are predominantly coated in mat white paint.
All furniture except for chairs and a table were custom-made specifically for this home. The kitchen section as a folding unit through a small library and on to the office becomes a central defining element.
Early in the planning stage, a cost framework was developed to budget precisely for all aspects from the purchase of the property to the furnishings and fittings. Before the start of construction, more than 80% of the contract work sections had been put out to tender, negotiated and contracted out.
Special focus in the building is given to the lighting. Daylight, on the one hand – plentiful and controlled using shading systems. On the other hand, artificial lighting both for the interior and the exterior. Because of the great significance of light as a medium for the clients, a lighting architecture concept was developed right at the start together with the architecture to define the building’s daytime and nocturnal architecture. The lighting concept was devised and implemented by lighting design specialists LIGHT DESIGN ENGINEERING KOBER. It was based on the wishes of the clients for a balanced interplay of bright living spaces opening up towards the garden and more shaded private quarters on the upper floor that remain sheltered from view.
The result is a building clearly divided into two sections by the incident daylight. Suffused with daylight transferred into the interior through fully glazed walls on three sides, the open living and dining area is dovetailed level with the exterior by 3.50m wide, double-aspect sliding doors that open at right angles under a canopy roof projecting far out into the garden. The resulting areas of sunlight and shade underneath these roofs form a dialogue between interior and exterior, between living space and garden. The depth of the canopy roof facing south resulted from an exact sun study. Between 1 April and 1 September, the south sun is shaded by the canopy roof, whereas in the colder months of the year the lower lying sun bathes the interior in light, not only for added warmth but also lifting the mood. The front of the canopy roof hides an awning behind the facade cladding to lend the terrace an ambiance that invites to linger.
The lower building section stands in stark contrast to the introverted and intimate upper floor. The wood panelling of the cladding here extend right across the windows to provide an optically homogenous surface on the outside and preventing the view inside, while the light filters through the wood as a warming element producing a playful effect of light and shadow. This leaves cool places to withdraw in summer, while in winter the atmosphere reminds of a ski lodge. Only the bedroom sits like an eyrie above the tree tops and offers a stunning view far across the region without permitting a look inside.
The artificial lighting concept takes up these contrasting atmospheres on ground and upper floor at different times of day and in the various seasons and interprets these into a nocturnal architecture that in turn reflects its occupants and their lifestyle. As the furniture, the light inside the house is equally “custom-made”. The luminaire housings were sealed in the shell’s concrete ceiling only once the sofa had been defined and the perfect postion had been found for the dining room table. The success of the lighting concept is based on an extensive involvement of the clients in the planning process and an intensive exchange between all involved. Key criteria for the lighting are visual comfort, natural light colours and excellent colour rendering, but also flexible switching and dimming.
The recessed luminaires mounted flush with the ceiling recede into the background and are free of glare and spill light to ensure highly efficient directed light. The significant component of homogenous vertical illuminance on the few wall surfaces makes these perceivable as spatial borders and provides a calming effect for the eye. Nowhere at any point are the straight lines of the architecture broken by disruptive beams of light. The ambient lighting is complemented in places by accent lighting focused on the furniture and determined by use. Work areas in the kitchen are illuminated by downlights, the sofa is lit by directional luminaires with oval outline lens, leaving the beam invisible and instead, illuminating the sofa precisely like a sculpture in the room. The luminaires are positioned to emit their beams at an angle of 15° onto the sofa providing perfect visual conditions for reading.
Furthermore, the clients already knew in the early planning stages which places were to be given special accents delivered by narrow beams of light. A bowl of oranges on the kitchen counter, for instance, has a defined place, as does a niche in the living room which stands out in the light from the slight glow of the brick wall. This niche also features a candle fireplace. The idea for this unusual and highly atmospheric room element was a souvenir which the clients brought home from their travels to Venice – there as here in their new home, it soon became a central place of relaxation.
Combining uniform wallwashing with selected accentuation creates hierarchies of perception and provides compelling visual perspectives. This is complemented by selected places for object luminaires that add warm coloured accents. The main lighting object, however, is the staircase positioned as a central core between the living and the dining area; it appears to be self-illuminating. With a height of up to six metres, the room is scenically illuminated using RGBW LED lens wallwashers to utilise the full colour spectrum of light. Simulating the appearance of a skylight during the day, sunlight seems to pour in between the two shear walls at night long after the sun has actually set. Even more spectacular colours than moonlight and ice age atmosphere are possible, of course, the strength of the luminaires, however, lies in their subtle discreetness through the play of cold and warm light throughout the course of the day to further enhance the relaxed atmosphere in the home.
The lighting concept for the outdoor area follows along the same principle as applied inside. The illumination of vertical structures helps to define exterior spaces at night. The uniform illumination of the tree surfaces on the east side of the property creates the optical illusion of a spatial border in the dark and directs attention to the garden. Vertical illuminance in the outdoor area eliminates reflections in the windows allowing the eyes to wander far into the distance. The interior is extended, dark nightmares are dispelled. This effect is further enhanced by the recessed luminaires in the canopy roof, as their asymmetrical light distribution forms a line of light around the glass structure giving it the appearance of floating on a carpet of light. Excellent glare control and the slight angling of the lamps ensure that no light penetrates into the interior. Even the swimming pond transforms into a lighting object at night. A single luminaire with 13W LED and oval outline lens accentuates the entire water surface and plants, as another luminaire with just 3W illuminates the inserted brick wall with a crisp focused beam. The lighting concept is rounded off by further accentuation and elaborate driveway lighting.
For easy adjustment of the light scenes depending on the time of day or night, the weather, usage and the required atmosphere, a DALI lighting control system was installed to operate not only the luminaires, switchable sockets and motion sensors, but also the watering system for pool and garden at the press of a button or using a timer function.