A Surrealist House Adorned with Lawned Walls and Floating Staircases
May 7, 2012
Spatial tricks are hard to come by in domestic architecture, and there’s good reason for that. The theoretical underpinning–the so-called “deep structure”–of the upside down staircase, among other effects, in Peter Eisenman’s House VI functions less as useful critique and borders more on trolling, a curious, if photogenic imposition that fails to register the connotations of semantic depth (the stairs act as a datum around which the structure is organized) it claims to inhere. In short, this “experimentation” or formal muddling usually fails to articulate new forms of space or to enhance domestic life in any meaningful way. Still, such sleight of hand, if sparingly and thoughtfully applied, can prove effective in deepening the experiential dimension of the architecture. Not the case with this house in Frohnleiten, Austria, which is packed with recurring visual debris.
Designed by Weichlbauer Ortis Architects, the house’s exterior is covered in a thin veneer of synthetic grass so as to blend the structure into the sloping hill on which it’s perched. Large, blank windows pierce the pseudo-lawned walls at intervals, usually at the corners, and around which a series of concrete stairs dance, lean, and cantilever. The rationale behind the abundance of these functionless stairs remains unclear, but it’s evidently part of a game in which the house acts as a device to frame its spectacular surroundings. Continue.
The floating stairs are accompanied by other subtle and not-so subtle details–including projecting window frames that extent past the house’s edge–all of which are willfully superfluous, contributing little to the sequence of spaces. Where these add-ons do succeed, however, they engage the houses’ delineated volumes, as is the case with the dramatic cantilever and its “support” by a fortuitously (mis)placed staircase.