Billdal, 20 km south of Gothenburg, is a community with a large amount of detached housing, situated within commuter distance to central Gothenburg. The area’s main attraction is truly the sea. Here, the horizon is visible from shore, while further north the vastness of the Northern Sea is obstructed by islands in the southern archipelago. Just next to the shoreline, but tucked away behind a hill that partly eliminates sea view, is the property of this object. The site was not without challenges with its difficult ground conditions, and surrounding large neighbouring villas. To offer impeccable living conditions on the site, the house had to adapt to the prevailing conditions.
Within the Japanese art of gardening, there is an expression, “shakkei”, which roughly translates into borrowing a view. It is used to describe the process of capturing different views; mountains in the distance, the nature up close, the sky above, and the earth and water beneath. It is a method used to make small and narrow gardens appear larger and richer in crowded parts of Japan. In essence: capture the nature alive! The situation in Billdal reminded of Japanese monastery gardens – crowded spaces with only shattered views reaching through the surrounding buildings. By a conscious placement of walls and windows these slots of the most attractive views has been borrowed and made the most out of. By necessity, this has been the established principle in this project and enables the occupants to feel like living in the middle of nature, even in site surrounded by neighbouring houses.
Approaching the lot, one drives along a 15 meter long road in between two neighbouring villas before reaching the house. When parking the car, a narrow gap captures the view of a large tree. The entrance of the house is accentuated by a 5 cm raised concrete slab leading up to the main door by a small incline. When walking up the ramp one perceives a notion of the much brighter central courtyard situated on the left as light is filtered through a wall of fir boards. This is another central part of the drama embedded in the art of Japanese gardening. First sense, then hold and finally experience. Reaching the entry door, the inner courtyard unfolds to the left.
The building is in three stories, where as the top floor is rotated by 90 degrees around the areas with the connecting shafts. In doing so, the house turns its back towards the neighbours. This is amplified with great heights and sparse amounts of windows. Towards the courtyard, a more intimate scale is applied and the facades are fully glazed. Because of the complicated geometries, the detailing is kept simple with a façade in ferric sulphate processed whitewood and mounts and fenestrations are in anodised aluminium.
The upper level holds three bedrooms and a bathroom. All semi-public spaces are located at the entry level. These spaces flow out to the courtyard through large sliding doors. The basement may be furnished into a separate unit or function as a recreation room.
The interior concrete slabs are precisely polished in order to achieve a shiny surface that does not demand any further cover. Apart from the floor, white painted plaster dominates all surfaces. The natural center point of the house is the staircase that the whole building revolves around. At the top of the staircase there are large windows facing west, making the entire stair appear like a solar periscope that brings down the light.
Regarding the isolated building volumes, the façade material consists of 22 mm fur panel on top of 22 mm lath. The panelling is treated with ferric sulphate.
+ Project facts
Location: Gothenburg, Sweden
Architects: Unit Arkitektur AB (unitark.se)
Design Principal: Mikael Frej + Klas Moberg
Project Architects: Frans Magnusson
Floor area: 270 sqm
Project year: completed 2012
Statics: RH Byggteknik