- Country: Sweden
Text description provided by the architects. The concept for an unusual self-build project – the brainchild of Swedish architect Emelie Holmberg, situated in unspoiled woodland on the island of Väddö, Sweden – grew out of a realization of changing living and working patterns partly precipitated by the pandemic. Pre-Covid, Emelie had dreamt of a more flexible lifestyle facilitated by technology, allowing her to work remotely wherever she chose, so long as she had internet access.
This partly sparked the idea for gimme shelter, which began life as a concept for her own self-build, low-cost home. Today, the house, which stands on a plot that Emelie bought in 2019, comprises two structures. One measures 32 sq m and contains a living room, kitchen, and bathroom; the other occupies 10sq m and houses a bedroom.
Each one is skirted by a veranda with a wide overhang that shelters it from the elements. The two houses’ roofs are connected, providing a sheltered outdoor space intended for many uses. The space creates a link between being indoors and out – and is protected from rain, wind, and sun.” There’s also some decking projecting into the woods at right angles to the houses, which reinforces the sense of being immersed in nature.
The blurring of boundaries between inside and outside is one of the house’s main attractions. Both living and sleeping cabins have huge windows that maximize views of the natural surroundings. Wooden panels that slide on rails on the outer perimeter of the verandas can shut out views or strong sunlight when needed. These reference Swedish vernacular architecture, says Emelie: “This is a common feature in traditional Swedish barns and cowsheds.” These also reflect her interest in Japanese architecture and its partitioning of spaces with sliding panels.
The project was overseen by Emelie whose involvement was very hands-on. “The architectural work is all my own,” she says. “I did all the drawings for it and 3D models. I financed the project and was part of the team that built it, which made it possible for me to control the whole building process. A lot was designed on-site as we were building the house. You often don’t discover whether drawings work in reality until they become 3D elements, built to scale. In this project, if something didn’t look the way I had originally visualized it, I could change it until I was happy with the result.”
In time, Emelie came to view the house as a prototype for a future housing model. She founded her company, gimme shelter, which fabricates modules others could buy. The name recalls the eponymous 1969 Rolling Stones song, with all its connotations of the 1960s and 1970s anti-authoritarian youthquake generation. Emelie describes the concept as “a Lego-like system”. “The design of my home can now be adapted – built-in modules of various sizes, such as 15sq m, 40sq m, or 60sq m that could all be fitted together. These are made of prefabricated parts, which bring costs down.”