A contemporary country house
Building in rural districts and the suburbs is not an easy task for architects to take on. Indeed, there have been repeated debates about the right approach to this type of architecture ever since in the second half of the 19th century the first residential areas started to develop outside the cities and larger towns as trains or trams enabled people to commute to their nearby metropolis.
Criticism of modern building in rural regions was already voiced in response to the construction boom at the end of the 19th century – long before in the 1920s New Architecture stated that it regarded a formal reference to the building tradition of a place as being widely obsolete. A series of books known as the "Kulturarbeiten" (Culture Works) by Paul Schultze-Naumburg came to be very influential in this regard. A leading proponent of the local heritage movement the author would later become a leading ideologist during the Third Reich. For their “Blood and Soil” ideology the Nazis promoted a house type known as a settlement house, which from the 1910s onwards had emerged as an inexpensive family home: A one and a half storey stone building on a compact plot with a high saddle roof. In the second half of the 20th century, when increasing numbers of people were building their own home, this was the most popular model in West Germany’s exploding construction market and to a lesser extent in East Germany. This boom together with the mobility that came with car ownership led to an unprecedented overdevelopment of rural districts.
Today, architects designing properties in the dormitory towns populated by the settlement houses that emerged as a result of the above development face a tall task: developing new and better solutions for urban living. For its project “Am Feldrand”, a large detached house in a suburb of Zwickau, Atelier ST gave much thought to building in suburban and rural regions. It came up with an ensemble of three volumes – a house, a garage and a small orangery, which between them create several courtyard and garden spaces: a courtyard in front of the entrance, fruit and vegetable garden and in the center between the three buildings a large main garden.
The architects cite several typologies of rural architecture: The grouping of buildings of different sizes around a center, but also the coarse pebble-wash on the outer walls, which was commonly used for the stables and outbuildings of collectivized farms in East Germany known as LPGs, recall farming and agricultural properties. In realizing an orangery Atelier ST makes a reference to the tradition of villas and county homes with this noble, middle-class offshoot of the common greenhouse.
Simultaneously, the architectural language of the buildings with their clear cube shapes is decidedly contemporary. Despite its size, the building does not appear ostentatious thanks to the concentration on a handful of materials – brick walls with rendering, aluminum shingles on the roof, larch for the windows and interior fittings. Inside, by contrast, the open wooden roof truss references country homes. In the living room as well as the dining and kitchen areas, both of which extend over two storeys, the open truss decisively influences the overall spatial impact.
With “Am Feldrand”, Atelier ST has realized a contemporary country house but without resorting to pseudo-folkloristic elements, and entirely without showiness. While the home thus blends with its neighbors, it refrains from emulating them. It is simply a good answer to the question of what living in rural areas should look like today.