How should a house on the mountainside be for a family with a person confined to a wheelchair? The client himself had the answer:
“Contrary to what you would expect, I do not want a simple house. I want a complex house because the house will define my world”.1
The land where the house is located is located in the surroundings of Bordeaux, on the hillside overlooking the city. The owner had purchased the lot before a car accident limited his mobility. Koolhaas meets the customer’s request and responds to the challenge with a design in three levels that will be the universe of his client.
The low level locks its irregular silhouette on the side of the hill. Two other boxes are stacked on top of this volume. Each box corresponds to a floor and is defined as an entity of autonomous character and functioning.
The lower floor Groups the services of the house: kitchen, intimate dining room, cellar and a TV room. In the middle floor the social activity of the family is developed. A free plant with transparent enclosures that allow you to experience the urban landscape at a distance. The upper floor houses the bedrooms. It is a pink concrete box with round openings that frame the landscape from each bedroom. Seen from a distance, the first floor merges with the slope and the third seems to float on the intermediate glass box.
However, the outstanding feature of the house is the owner’s desk. A room of 3 x 3.5 meters mounted on a platform with a huge hydraulic piston that allows vertical mobility on all three levels.
“The movement of the elevator continuously changes the architecture of the house. A machine is your heart”.2
On the ground floor part of the kitchen dining room; on the first floor it is integrated with the same floor of the social area; on the top floor it is part of the marriage bedroom. A library closes one of the sides of the platform throughout the course of the platform.
The other vertical circulations adapt to the capricious shapes of the ground floor. A spiral staircase crosses the house parallel to the elevator. When it reaches the intermediate plant, it is coated in stainless steel to be diluted in the reflection of the landscape that dominates the floor.
The structural solution is also atypical. The upper floor rests at one end on the volume of the staircase, which is outside the axial axis of the rectangular floor. This imbalance is solved by means of a beam that transversally crosses the volume above the ceiling, supported by a steel tensioner anchored to the floor to achieve structural stability. The rear part is supported by a steel bracket in the shape of “L”.
Thus defined, the house establishes a double functional order in a shrewd and effective way. The vertical movement of the room allows the owner to interact with the other members of the family in the most important areas of the home.
Koolhaas creates a small universe for a man who lacks mobility of his own, and that universe moves for him.
Marcelo Gardinetti. Architect
La Plata. Argentina. April 2019
1 Rem Koolhaas/OMA, Descriptive report of the project.