Villa Kapla / YAJ Architects

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Architects: YAJ Architects
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Project area: 350 sqm
Project year: 2007 – 2010
Photographs: Courtesy of YAJ Architects

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Villa Kapla is a three story, split-level house, based on the logic of Kapla planks. It’s an organic, yet rectangular, wooden building, sitting on one of the hillsides of the island of Lidingö in Stockholm. According to the logic of Kapla, we started out spatializing the programme by stacking wooden blocks – where the interior rooms because of their number, square footage or potential views demanded it, blocks would cantilever, resulting in a number of randomly protruding volumes. A combination of sustainable design, heavy insulation and clean-tech also make Villa Kapla a low energy house.

Villa Kapla replaces a small house at Lidingö in Stockholm to accommodate a large family, where the parents are also working from home. There were three given input parameters from the client for our design work: A clean, right-angled, contemporary expression, a larch cladding and a reuse of the basement structure of the original house. By means of the children’s Kapla planks we summarized the client’s intentions.

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Villa Kapla is continuous and coherent in terms of color and material. Except for its steel detailing, the building has one single exterior material: Solid , which also covers the floors on the two upper levels. The first level floors are all covered with a rough but shimmering, grey slate from Offerdalen, which is also found on all bathroom floors, as window-sills and as tops of the double-sided fireplace, that semi-separates the dining room and the living room.

The walls and ceilings have one single nuance of white, except for parts of the walls of the private niches of the third level, which, in contrast, have expressive colors chosen individually by each family member. There are two lighting principles throughout the house: One general and one specific. There are mobile, directable spotlights both in the indoor spaces and in their continued sections outdoor under cantilevered building volumes. In specific places electrical points in the ceiling allow for hanging or ceiling mounted more feature type of lamps.

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As all of our work, Villa Kapla is done with green ulterior motives. The house has generous windows and glass doors connecting the interiors of the house visually to immediate intimate outdoor spaces as well as to the distant hilly landscape. During the summer the glazed openings are protected from excessive solar heating by the cantilevering building volumes. The lower sun angle of the wintertime lets the warming sun energy into the house, where it’s stored in the massive masonry of the fireplace.

Clean-tech, heavy insulation and natural materials give the client added value in the form of low heating costs and a healthy indoor climate. A vegetable garden right next to the kitchen allows for an eco-lifestyle, along with spaces designated for composting and separation at source of household waste.

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The house is a three-story split-level building of totally 350 m2. The public zones of the two lower floors of the house are all given gradual transits to adjacent garden spaces. The third floor is the family’s more private sphere of bedrooms, bathrooms, parents’ workplace and a shared family room.

A large portion of parents’ time spent at home is generally related to meals. Luckily, cooking is the favorite pastime of both parents in Villa Kapla. Therefore the kitchen is located on an entresol in the very center of the house – on the middle floor and adjacent to the entrance-atrium and stairwell. Here the family has visual contact and control over the street and the entire public section of the home, including major parts of the garden. In the kitchen there is room for cooking as well as for mingle, homework and play.

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For us at YAJ architects, a home is a place that is both relaxing and inspiring, that fills those who reside there with a pleasant feeling of elation. A home is also a place for both the everyday and the festive. And, necessarily, it’s a machine for living, that makes the living logistics of even a large family as smooth and enjoyable as is humanly possible. We sincerely refuse any opposition between function and aesthetics!

We consider spaciousness a quality in itself. We often strive to enlarge the experience of spaces, by means of continuity in form, material and view, and by means of contrasting grand and intimate spaces. Spatial surprise, when the whole cannot be grasped visually in one glance, is another of our tools for enlarging the experience of space.

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Rather than the traditional Western distinct separating of rooms and functions, we generally prefer continuous spaces provided with series of niches that can be screened off to various degrees – visually, acoustically and/or physically – depending on the specific needs for privacy or isolation. In our work, as in Villa Kapla, this idea often include gradual transits between indoor and outdoor spaces, as well as buildings growing in summertime and shrinking during cold winters.

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In Villa Kapla, as in all of our work, we have aimed at a contemporary architecture – without compromising on ecology and a high degree of coziness.

Cite: "Villa Kapla / YAJ Architects" 01 Dec 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 01 Aug 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=92358>

10 comments

  1. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I would love to see them revisit some of these wooden projects after a few years when the wood is gray and aged. Will time be pleasant to these types of design and give it more depth or will they just look weathered and old?

  2. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I like it. Its clean and pure looking. A simpler envelope would give it better energy performance but it needs some character. I have removed the pitched roof in my designs for practicality and energy performance reasons, but this leaves you with a flat roof, which is a middle eastern vernacular – not native to northern europe. I wonder if this bothers other europeans at all? It would be good to have our modern architecture derived more from our own culture in this respect…

  3. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I’d love to see full plans of this house.

    Good god, are people still carping on about flat roofs? It’s part of European tradition dating right back to the Greeks and Romans. Northern Europeans have been part of the Neo-Classical tradition since the renaissance. I see no problem with it, especially in a technically advanced country as Sweden. In fact, the middle-eastern remark smacks of hitlerism and European avoidance of their own racism.

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      No, vernacular is very important to cultural identity. Your knee jerk remark about fascism is typical of someone who doesn’t really think for themselves.

  4. Thumb up Thumb down -1

    Your argument could be taken right out of Hitler – he went on for days about modern architecture being “middle-eastern” and tried his best to kill it – and wiped out Germany in the process.

    Anyway, most Northern Europeans prefer American (which of course, is where the flat roof in modernism originated) style ranch houses despite the right wings harping on about vernaculars and cultural identity. Something you are obviously deathly afraid of protecting – which of course means it’s already dead or changed beyond repair.

  5. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Would you deny anyone their cultural heritage? 99% of houses here have pitched roofs. Modern architect designed houses in northern europe frequently have a flat roof, which in a way I like, since it can (when actually considered and not simply replicated) apply a kind of logical scrutiny to the design. i.e. does the roof need a pitch? What performs/functions better in this context? etc.
    My point was simply that it could be argued that modernist derived architecture may be blind to its cultural context.
    To bring up hitler in reaction to what I said is puerile. I am politically centre-left. But I like mountains too, go figure.

    • Thumb up Thumb down +2

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      You ask – does the roof need a pitch. Its an interesting question. As I’m sure you will be aware, in snowy and alpine climates, we install snow catchers to keep the snow on the roof for as long as possible, in order to improve the roof’s U value (a foot or more of snow is a fantastic additional layer of insulation). So you could argue that a flat roof is the logical development to keep the snow up there. So long as the structural loading are calculated sufficiently to support the weight of the snow. Culture and tradition are evolutionary things, not a moment frozen in time.

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        Thanks to Ralph Kent who put the right and last word to the above dispute. Architecture’s history and more generally art are marked with crosscultural evolutions so why all this fuss about flat roofs. They date back to the 60′s and are a very rational use of space. Vernacular and contermporary are linked tightly into architects minds for developing new ideas.

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